Shipping Meltdown! (or not?)

Santa Claus isn’t coming this year! Global shipping has collapsed! Big ships are stranded as the companies can’t even pay the docking fees!

Clearly, it’s time to panic. The bankruptcy of Hanjin shipping has created a wave of horrifically bad stories predicting the end of international trade as we know it. Recession must be just around the corner as the global system collapses, right?

Um, no. Not even close. The story we have been told is a good example of two key features of financial reporting today. The first is that no one has the slightest idea what they are talking about and the story is completely free of the context anyone might need to understand it. The second is that the only big news is bad news – probably in part due to the first problem.

Continue reading

Containerized Cargo

Stop for a moment and look around you.  In front of your nose might be the aroma of coffee from Sumatra steaming inside a mug made in China.  The table  you are sitting at may be from South America or Canada.  Your clothes could be made of Egyptian cotton.  What do all of these things have in common, other than your life?  Nearly all of them spent some time in a metal box, 20 feet by 8 feet by 9 and a half feet tall – a Twenty foot Equivalent Unit (TEU).

Containerized cargo has changed the world more than any other technology over the last 30 years, maybe or maybe not excluding the internet.  Yet few people stop to consider this phenom and what it means

Continue reading