URSABLOG: Nonsense


“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll


This extract from the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter by the author of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland has been for some reason rattling around my head this week, and in an effort to get over some disappointing negotiations earlier this week, I have decided to indeed talk of many things.


  • Shoes


A friend of mine commented on my recent blog on emissions asking the following question:


I am not in the container business but it would be interesting if someone with the right tools could calculate the transportation carbon foot print for a pair of tennis shoes as follows:


A: From factory in a truck to a container load port in China

B: From the container load port in China on a container ship to Rotterdam

C: From Rotterdam in a truck to an Amazon distribution centre

D: From the distribution centre in a delivery van to the end user (assuming an average distance away)


I don’t know the answer but I would love for someone to tell me.


Answers please on a postcard, or email, text or any other type of modern communication that I subscribe to.


  • Ships


What’s going on at Scorpio? Having recently announced that it was moving into Wind Turbines:


“Scorpio Bulkers is embarking on a new and exciting journey.  The world urgently needs to reduce emissions and offshore wind will make a pivotal contribution.”


it seems to be urgently reducing its bulk carrier exposure, presumably for the same reason. Since the wind announcement in August, they have sold five ultramaxes and three kamsarmaxes for a total value of US$ 140 mill, and an average age 4 years old. Wind may be the future, but the ships will still exist in reality, if not on Scorpio’s balance sheet. Maybe they were just getting too old.


  • Sealing wax


Ok, a bit of a stretch this one, but affixing a seal to a document, with wax, or even just stamped in ink doesn’t mean that much when it comes to sale contracts, even ship sale contracts.


Much importance, cultural I suspect, is assigned to stamping and signing documents, the assumption made that a contract is not a contract until it is sealed, i.e. signed and stamped. In fact, under English Law, the law used for most of shipping, a contract is effective when all terms are agreed and all subjects are lifted. The written document is the evidence of the contract, not the contract itself. After all, a contract– however concise or long-winded – is just a legal agreement with a price attached. By a legal agreement, I mean one that does not break the law, or is fraudulent. Next time you agree to terms and lift subjects on the phone, or by text or any other type of modern communication, the contract is valid, and any attempt to renegotiate terms, before or after executing signing (and sealing) the contract, is liable for damages for breach of contract.


Just saying. My learned friends can correct me if I’m wrong.


  • Cabbages


There is apparently a kimchi crisis in South Korea. For those of you unaware of this uniquely Korean speciality, it is a spicy cabbage dish, made with chillies, garlic and ginger, and usually with some kind of salty seafood (like salted anchovies or prawns), left to ferment over weeks in cool conditions, and to be eaten for the rest of the year. Traditionally it was made in earthenware pots, which were then buried in holes in the frozen ground. For those who have experienced winter in Korea, you will know how cold it can get: providing the ideal conditions for both making and eating kimchi. It has remarkable health-giving properties, and I love it. People standing close after you have eaten it may not appreciate it so much.


The kimchi crisis has been caused by an abnormally long rainy season which has meant the cabbage harvest is a lot less than usual, with prices for the raw cabbages increasing by as much as 60%. Let’s be clear, the ‘crisis’ is not causing people to starve, it just means that the price of making kimchi, a ritual at this time of the year, is more expensive than usual. The government has stepped in with a bailout programme covering 300,000 heads of cabbage, subsiding 300,000 heads at 30%. If that sounds a lot, don’t worry: my calculations suggest that this bailout is costing the government the equivalent of US$ 450,000, which is very little compared to the billions used to bailout other industries, like shipbuilding for example. The good news is that prices are beginning to stabilise, and 2020 will probably just go down as the year of the bad cabbage harvest.


What interests me is how climate change has entered the conversation so thoroughly that every weather event is attributed to climate change:


“Cabbage in particular is quite sensitive to climate change and any sort of extreme weather will be detrimental to its output,” said Kim Dajung, a research fellow at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.


Really? This is hardly rocket science. My father used to grow cabbages, amongst many other things, in his vegetable garden, year after year. We knew therefore, when it was a good year for cabbages, or beans, or kale, or potatoes, because we never stopped eating them for weeks on end. Other years were bad, which was a relief for young and teenage children, or at least a break in the dietary monotony. On another level, every wine lover knows that some years are different from others, and rejoice in it.


The weather is acting strangely in some parts of the world, maybe as a reaction to less emissions due to COVID (8.8% less in the first half of this year compared to the year before), or despite it, but naturally enough for climate change campaigners and sceptics alike, the weather is used to back up their arguments. Storms, tornadoes, droughts, floods? Evidence of climate change say the campaigners. Snow in July, wet autumns, spring gales? Normal erratic weather events, say the sceptics. And our memories are not reliable, especially as we get older. I remember snow every winter when I was a child in England: the records tell a different story. Weather is what happens, climate creates the conditions for weather to happen. The two are very different.


  • Kings


There is no royalty in shipping, despite the predominance of family dynasties, especially in Greece. However, I was very pleased to see that one of the last inductees into the Greek Shipping Hall of Fame was Pericles Panagopoulos, and in a way, he was very much a leader of a Royal Line. I met him a few times, and respected him hugely. All of us in shipping benefitted from his insights and his passion, and all of us in Greece continue to do so. He is a king to me. A few reasons why:


  • He wasn’t born into a shipping family
  • He lost his father in the Second World War
  • Although close to Eugene Eugenides, he did not take over the Home Line business as expected, and was instead employed to work in cruise shipping, for Sun Lines
  • He founded his own cruise line in 1971, Royal Cruise Line (told you he was in a royal line)
  • He was a leader obsessed by detail, both in ships and style, engineering and service
  • He was an innovator too, taking the industry forward
  • He got out when the going was good, also seeing the nature of where the industry was going
  • He built up Attica Enterprises, and created both the Superfast Ferries company, concept and design
  • Blue Star Ferries was his too.
  • He sold out in 2007 (again very wise, and perfect timing)
  • In his spare time he formed and led Magna Marine Inc., a hugely respected dry cargo ship management company
  • He was kidnapped and held captive for nine days in 2009. This experience, however traumatic, added to his dignity.


When I met him, he would quiz me in detail, and with charm, and with fierce intelligence. This was not a meeting you could just walk into and attempt to waffle through it. You had to prepare and be ready. He is missed.


  • Why the Sea is Boiling Hot?


Because it’s only October, it’s Greece and water takes longer to cool down than air. You may wish to add your own climate change theories here …….


  • Whether Pigs have Wings?


Well, this is not a reference to genetic modification of pork, or a new version (or side effect) of African Swine Fever in China. It’s basically a response to a statement made by a British friend of mine about the coming Presidential election in the United States.


“Donald Trump get re-elected? Come on, next you will tell me pigs can fly!”


I really hope not. Really.


Simon Ward