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Last updateΣαβ, 23 Ιουν 2018 12pm

poseidonia 2018

Back Βρίσκεστε εδώ: ΑΡΧΙΚΗ Conference Conference 2018: The Global Impact of Shipping Prof. Eleni Thanopoulou at TheSeaNation Conference

Prof. Eleni Thanopoulou at TheSeaNation Conference

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For the sake of the few people here who are using their headphones, I will also speak in English if the rest of the audience does not mind. For me today is also not a regular speech I give; it’s an anniversary. It’s been ten years since the time I stood in this very same auditorium speaking from this podium after about some hours that we learned the news that the Lehman Brothers had collapsed. I had to rewrite my speech on the back of the papers I was carrying with me on a boat that does not exist anymore, of a shipping company that does not exist anymore.

And I remember I finished with the words that no matter what, the times ahead are going to be very interesting, the only thing you can be sure about is that our vessels and our people are going to keep feeding and fueling the world economy.

We did all that all these ten years, but there is a lot that has happened, and we are now in a very different place. I must say thank you to Ted Petropoulos, Aimilios Avgouleas, and Mr... (??) because they really set exactly the scenery for what I intend to talk about.

I have just ten minutes for ten years or that was the initial deal then Mr. Xiradakis came in and basically told me that I had five minutes for ten years. This is what bankers do, you know, they squeeze everything they can out of you so I’ll try and squeeze you in this time exactly what I want to say.

Now you have another 8 and a half though.

OK! Thank you, generous. So, let’s see what I mean by bundling the risk that goes along this, I would call it, supply chain of shipping, from ordering, financing to shipbuilding and then if we don’t want it to go wary to good ship-owning.

That of course after 2008, that ominous year. So, we are still being listening in the past few years, weeks, years perhaps if you take into account 2013, about the famous recovery of the market and the upside. I still recall that I was the only person in another auditorium trying to talk people out of ordering ships in 2013. Many of these people are not in this room today, because they don’t own shipping companies anymore.

 

It is so sweet to the ear to listen to what you would like to listen to and nobody wants to listen to bad news but that’s a story that we know since we are born. So we have today more ships than in 2008. What has not happened is the clearing of the market from the real tonnage surplus that we had in the 1930’s, the market was clear, the total world tonnage was reduced, the same happened in the 1980’s.

We haven’t seen this yet. Instead, we kept on having dramatic increases of the world tonnage post 2008 basically because of a backlog and then because people were sweet-talked in 2013 to close another deal and banks had not burned their fingers entirely, they had some spare, and went into financing these deals and then we had the shipyards which did it and of course we know where some of the shipyards are now and where some of the shipping lines are.

This morning we heard about some notorious cases of failure in that respect. So, we still have this talk about market upsides and we still have more ordering, but do we still order these vessels taking into account the real demand scenarios that we may possibly be facing.

Or are we converting or our wishful thinking it would be what I would call the champagne game. Some of you may, maybe many of you, are familiar with that the famous beer game an MIT product of Jay Forrester, a famous academic who basically showed by a very simple beer game that is retailer, distributor a wholesaler, a brewery, how things were all among four pieces of the supply chain.

One spike somewhere makes the whole go AWOL at the end and in our case we’re not talking about beers, you know, we’re talking about champagne and champagne is much more expensive than beer and so our losses. So, let’s take a look at what this world is turning into and what is it that we’re not taking into account. Had we taken into account what happened post 2008 we would have foreseen that there was a carnage to come in 2016 in the container marker. Who would be buying the goods that would be filling these containers, that would be filling those ships that were filling the order books of shipyards? Well, the demand by the average consumer. Where is the average consumer now together with his middle-class or her middle-class? Very much down the drain and this exactly pictures the strongest perhaps middle-class in the world, the U.S. one, and you can see what happened to the average consumer income, where was this demand to come from I don’t know what were people thinking because that was a long-term trend that we saw forming after 2008 and in this country we know it all too well.

So, if we want to plan for the future supply we must take into account the real demand and this is a demand which comes from a consumer whose power has been weakened, comes from a dematerialized economy, remember this picture you see over the internet the desk that you had in the 1980’s and the desk that you have now is probably a thin layer of a tablet there and before that there were huge piles of plastic of steel of cables of everything that ships transport.

Now, if you don’t need them on your desk why on earth or at sea should ships be transporting them? So, this is our world on the one side, on the demand side, and on the other side we still have an investor glut because we don’t only have the traditional shipping investors, we have the new investors in shipping and I don’t mean only by that the expert banks of large nations but also talk about the sharp eye of the odd not so odd fund owner who thinks that shipping is a great place to actually invest in. So we have as a result a never stopping to grow fleet and I really wonder how on earth or at sea is the man going to meet supply.

So it’s time to listen a bit to the music and remember that if we don’t like the news it’s not exactly the fault of the news. It is the fault of us not being able to adapt. If we are, maybe we are to be among the even fewer winners at least I remember in this auditorium the people who took the weekend of the 13th to the 14th of September of the Lehman Brothers’ collapse seriously, managed to still be today in this room and that’s something.

So, what are we supposed to be doing when building and financing ships in 2018 that we were not doing or should not be doing us in 2008. World GDP has not been fast growing anymore and you remember about this broken link between the GDP and the world trade, which affects shipping demand. Remember that people are going to be out of work, which mean out of substantial income more and more we do this in shipping we are planning a future of people less shipping operations at sea.

Work productivity is ever fast growing of course and if you look at the population to save you remember that there are big growing middle classes that usually buy at home they will buy in China I don’t think that they will import, you know, something from elsewhere if they have everything they need and the other middle classes, the ones that are not growing and they are going down, their income is going down as well, so there is no hope from that side.

So, maybe we are able to save our lives through that industrial, fourth industrial revolution, maybe there would be a boost by the economy of the free time and as you see in the picture next to that, in our dreams. Probably the future, the immediate future the one that we’re planning investment for is a future of more inequality, less average consumer income and slow GDP growth. In that case, what are you supposed to be doing, especially if you consider that that fourth Industrial Revolution is not a volume or distance.

One will cover this in the first, the second and the third Industrial Revolution and this one may not be an industrial one at all and when it’s not at all it doesn’t produce volume or distance.

So this should not only make us worry, it should perhaps make us change. So, I come to that proposition about the champagne game and how we were to change it, so if the future is light and volume-less let’s face it in a different way. Usually you try and place an order with somebody who wants to give you finance urgently and somebody who wants an order from you urgently.

We should do it I think in a very different way.

So, it’s going to continue to be a free market for large cargo owners to kill upsides and it’s going to be free for owners to take as little money as it allows some of them to remain afloat, so what are we supposed to be doing?

Let’s take a look at this supply chain in a different way. When you have fifty-five hundred five thousand airline passengers going broke, this is not going necessarily to break the airline but if you have five big debtors or if you have five big clients in the shipyards and they go broke, this is going to take your shipyard along and we have seen the results in 2016 and then it might well be the end.

So we must take a look at this ordering, financing and shipbuilding chain in a different way, not trying to find the opportunity and just offload the risk and squeeze whatever we can from the other party but try and assess the risk of the other party, like if it was a risk over our own. This is very much away from what we are really today in. We are in a casino economy, there is not very much ethos and Mr. ... (???) made it very clear about what can happen if things go bad, but it’s very close to the ethos of shipping as we know it and I would like to finish exactly with this; that we have been through a lot and ethos might be one of the losers, so these ten years did what centuries have not managed to.

The last remains of a world honoring the shipping business as we know it have been replaced from what my dear friend and academic co-author Dr. (??) loves to point as the root of many ills, the casino economy, as a current reign of financial speculation has been termed since the first signs of the current era decades ago.

One U.S. commentator of the casino economy has said that the term was extremely astute and have been so many losers already and that comment was made as early as 2003, five whole years before the crisis dawned on us for many as I said, precisely in this same auditorium.

One boom the greatest in shipping history, one bust the greatest in shipping history and many bitter lessons learned later. Let’s hope that the shipping ethos is not one of the losers of the last 10 years and let’s hope and wish that through this casino economy we’ll have to survive in anymore the ways of our grandfathers held their ships afloat come hell in high water; the bravery of captains and crews who acts flaming pipes threatening their crews, brought food to starving areas amidst storms and typhoons, fuel to frozen homes axing ice from the deck amidst the North Atlantic in the night with similar ships and determination. Let’s hope that through financial casino and political inferno their ethos will prevail. It is up to us, their descendants. Thank you!

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