The ‘Chinamax’ aka* ‘Valemax’: an (iron) ore carrier drama

They emerged as a popular breed in the 1950s, but then lost prominence in the seventies and eighties when the ubiquitous bulk carrier took over world seaborne dry bulk commodity trade. Since then they have adopted a low profile. Now they are making a dramatic rush for renewed fame, on an impressive scale. The ore carrier, actually a much bigger version designated as a VLOC or very large ore carrier, is reshaping the global shipping market.

The group of ultra-large ships currently being introduced, since 2011, are the leviathans of the shipping world. Their carrying capacity is over twice that of a large 180,000 deadweight tonnes ‘capesize’ bulk carrier, typically used in the iron ore and some other trades (although a number of bigger ships also exist). This new generation of mega capacity 400,000 dwt VLOCs have a length of 360 metres, a beam of 65 metres and a draft of 23 metres, an immense size.


Only a small number of ports around the world, plus a few more under development, have big enough dimensions and facilities to accommodate these vessels. Such ports, in both the iron ore exporting and importing countries, mostly handle vast quantities of iron ore annually in continuous flows, enabling large ships to remain fully employed. Currently, loading ports in Brazil, and discharging ports in Europe, China, Japan, Philippines plus a new terminal in Sohar, Oman, are able to accept the biggest ships. The new ‘Valemax’, originally known as ‘Chinamax’ 400,000 dwt ore carriers were designed with full awareness of employment limitations.

Their lineage goes back to the middle of the last century. At that time, tweendeck tramp steamers used in the dry cargo trades, the market workhorses, were proving unsuitable for burgeoning iron ore transport business. The concept of a specialised vessel, with a size and characteristics making it ideal for carrying this commodity, evolved. When ore carriers were introduced, many were very large in comparison with other existing dry cargo ships and were able to achieve economies of scale (a lower transport cost per tonne of cargo carried).

Starting with a small number of ships in the early 1950s (a very few had been introduced previously), from 1954 onwards the world fleet of ore carriers grew rapidly. In 1960 there were 119, with an average size of just under 24,000 dwt, based on figures compiled by shipbrokers Fearnleys. By 1975 the total had risen to 298 and the average size had increased to almost 54,000 dwt. Subsequent fleet growth was slower and their popularity faded.

An example of the new breed making an impact was the Orelia, delivered in 1954, first of a class of six sisterships. Owned by a subsidiary of the famous old British shipping company Furness Withy, these ore carriers were built specifically for long-term charter to the British Iron & Steel Corporation, carrying ore to UK ports. With a lifting capacity of just 9,000 dwt, the vessels were minnows compared with today’s giants, but they greatly improved efficiency in the trade. Progressively larger ships designed for carrying ore to European and Japanese ports followed.

Fast forward to the current era, and the phenomenal long boom in the dry bulk freight market between late 2003 and mid 2008. During this period Brazilian mining company Vale, one of the world’s largest iron ore suppliers, experienced difficulties competing with other suppliers – especially Australian – in the Asian regional market. China’s extremely rapidly growing import demand was a particular focus. Freight rates for ore cargoes to China from Brazil were far higher than freight rates from Australia, reflecting the much greater voyage distance from Brazil (about 3.5 times the Australian distance). Higher freights raised the delivered cost of Brazilian ore to China way above the comparable cost of Australian ore.

How could Vale improve its competitive position? There was an obvious answer involving massive capital investment in shipping capacity, not always a palatable option for a mining company. Much bigger ships to achieve scale economies, many of them, and all under the control of the commodity supplier, could reduce exposure to volatile freight market rates, sharply reduce freight costs, and greatly improve competitiveness. Vale decided to take this course of action, and in mid-2008 ordered a series of twelve 400,000 dwt vessels from Chinese shipbuilders Jiangsu Rongsheng. Further newbuilding orders followed. Additionally, long term transportation contracts were concluded by Vale with several other shipowners who, in turn, placed orders for similar-sized tonnage.

Altogether a remarkably large number of VLOCs, 35 in total, were ordered by Vale and its shipowner partners from shipbuilding yards, mostly in China and also in South Korea. The first ship, Vale Brasil, was delivered by Daewoo Shipbuilding, South Korea in April 2011. More were completed later in that year, followed by an acceleration of the delivery programme over the next twelve months, continuing into 2013. In June this year Lloyd’s List reported that 27 Valemax ships were operating, leaving 8 still under construction.

When all the giant ships are fully operational in Brazil’s iron ore export trade, they could be carrying over 50 million tonnes of cargo annually, assuming four round trips per year. This volume represents 15 per cent of annual Brazilian iron ore exports to all destinations (which totalled a colossal 326m tonnes last year). The exact quantity carried will depend on where they are employed (mostly to Asian destinations) and on the precise characteristics of the voyages.

Has this strategy – one of the biggest industrial shipping strategies ever seen in the dry bulk sector – proved successful? Two factors have dramatically altered the economics since the original plan was introduced. Firstly, the global dry bulk freight market collapsed in late 2008 and has remained low, even depressed at times, greatly reducing all open market freight rates. As a consequence the additional cost of transporting Brazil’s long distance exports to Asian destinations, compared with shorter distance costs from competitor Australia, diminished as well. Secondly, China refused to allow the new leviathans to discharge in Chinese ports (resulting in the generic name change in May 2011 from Chinamax to Valemax), a severe disadvantage. This ban actually adds more costs, incurred by transshipping iron ore into smaller vessels permitted to use ports in China.

So a large part of the strategy’s original justification has been undermined. Low freight rates on the spot market have the effect of reducing the advantages of employing Valemaxes. Moreover, adding transhipment costs resulting from the China discharge port ban is an unattractive feature. Vale has installed a floating transfer station in Subic Bay, Philippines, to offload cargoes into conventional capesize ships for the final leg of the journey to China. Also, a permanent transshipment hub is under construction on land at Teluk Rubiah, Malaysia.

But exclusion from Chinese iron ore discharging ports may not continue much longer. Several have the physical capacity to accept 400,000 dwt vessels, and others are being developed. In late 2011 Dalian received one mega shipment. More recently in April this year a part-loaded Valemax was received at Lianyungang. Granting wider permission would potentially benefit steel mills by lowering their transport costs on ore imports from Brazil, an even more valuable advantage when (eventually) freight market rates recover.

Chinese government policy banning these ships, officially announced in January last year, apparently reflects, mainly, opposition to their use from the China Shipowners Association, which has declared the ships to be monopolistic and unfair competition. However, recently there have been some tentative signs that this stance may not be maintained permanently. One expedient may be Chinese shipping companies becoming owners of some vessels, a possibility which has been under discussion previously.

(* aka = also known as)

Richard Scott
GMI visiting lecturer and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis

China’s sparkling maritime business achievements

The China maritime business story over the past ten years has been dazzling. By the end of 2012 Chinese shipowners’ share of the world’s entire merchant ship fleet had risen to 10 percent. This Chinese fleet is now more than three times its size one decade earlier. Last year shipbuilders in China produced 43 percent of the world’s newbuilding ship deliveries (based on deadweight tonnage), up from a relatively small six percent share at the start of the 2000s. Equally impressively, importers in China last year received an enormous volume of cargo by sea, comprising almost one-fifth of all world seaborne trade, compared with a six percent proportion a decade earlier.

An opportunity is approaching to examine this amazing narrative and its causes in more detail. At Greenwich Maritime Institute on 10th June, a one-day short course entitled ‘A Leading Global Player: Maritime Business Activities in China’ will look closely at the trends and assess the current position. Any clues to how events will unfold in the period ahead also will be discussed.

What has made these achievements so remarkable is not only the sheer magnitude, but also the speed at which expansion occurred. During a period of a little over ten years, China has transformed the global maritime business scene, overtaking other major players to become the most prominent and influential participant in several key activities. A dizzying velocity of sustained growth year after year became a defining feature, a pattern which was not widely foreseen. Few people would believe a forecaster predicting advances of that intensity or longevity.

Chinese shipowners, shipbuilders, ship recyclers, and importers and exporters of commodities and products carried by sea have become the principal, immediate focus of attention in international shipping markets. The first question asked by market operators, brokers and analysts in weighing up the current position and attempting to predict a pattern of events in the future is usually “what are the Chinese doing”?

From a global freight market viewpoint, the most prominent aspect has been the vast expansion of seaborne bulk commodity imports into China. In their offices during the late 1970s and early ’80s, some shipbrokers and analysts sat around talking about the possibility of China one day (within the foreseeable future) becoming a key factor affecting global bulk trade movements. Labelling this agreeable vista as a ‘great white hope’ did not seem too exaggerated. But the reality would take a long time to appear. Although in the 1990s there were distinct signs of a strong upwards trend from a low base, it was not until well after the millennium celebrations that China rapidly started becoming the most influential element.

In the early 2000s China’s dry bulk commodity imports averaged 8 percent of the global total. The 2002 figure was 217 million tonnes. Ten years later, in 2012, the total reached 1300 million tonnes, according to data compiled by Clarksons Research, raising the Chinese share of global dry bulk trade four-fold to 32 percent. This astonishing performance was driven by enormous expansion of iron ore imports for the steel industry. Other commodities also contributed strongly. Coal, for power station usage (steam coal) and for steel mill consumption (coking coal), was a key growth component, especially towards the end of the period. Rising soyabeans purchases and import volumes of several ‘minor’ bulk commodities were additional features.

The Chinese shipbuilding scene merits particular attention as well. When the 2000s began newbuilding vessel deliveries of all types from China’s shipyards totalled 3-4 million deadweight tonnes annually, a modest volume. In 2012 the total was massively larger at 65m dwt, comprising over two-fifths of the global total. Two years earlier, in 2010, China had become the world’s largest shipbuilder based on deadweight tonnage, overtaking South Korea. Then, last year, China also became number one on the basis of both deadweight tonnage and the dollar value of output.

Explanations for these striking developments (and for other prominent trends including oil imports, container trade and ship recycling) and perceptible pointers to the future will be examined intensely in the forthcoming GMI course. What is well known is that China’s economy has been a star performer, raising living standards sharply for a large proportion of the population. Sustained export competitiveness has been a notable achievement, both in shipbuilding and in sales of many other products including the vast quantities of consumer goods bought by countries around the world. Infrastructure building has greatly augmented growing Chinese domestic demand for manufactured goods, in turn adding to requirements for more raw materials and other commodities than could be provided from internal resources. Benefits for the world’s shipowners from the resulting imports have been very obvious.

Richard Scott
GMI Visiting Lecturer and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis

A Student Perspective: Shipping Business and Maritime Policies

Maritime policies have been the cornerstone of shipping business. They are considered as an area of study covering and emphasizing on issues such as environment, safety, subsidies, taxation and inter-modalism. Policies taken on the International level (IMO) such as SOLAS, MARPOL, and the ISM code have been hugely significant in regulating the shipping industry. Nonetheless, in our recent days, the new annexes of SOLAS and MARPOL are posing several challenges and ambiguities on ship owners and shipping companies.

Before mentioning these challenges, it is worth noting the importance of these policies. In fact, they ensure green and safe movement of vessels, and at the same time they give an added value to the company particularly the double –hull convention and the ISM code. To clarify, the ISM code main objectives are: 1) maintenance of ship and equipment; 2) safety and environmental protection policy; 3) development of plans for shipboard operations; 4) company responsibilities and authority; 5) emergency preparedness; 6) reports, non-conformities, accidents and hazardous occurrences; 7) certification, verification and control. Shipowners have been very keen to comply with the International regulations simply because their tankers will be chartered by worldwide reputable oil companies such as ESSO and Shell. In fact, these companies do their own surveying since they adopt the “zero tolerance policy” when it comes to oil spills from tankers. The reason behind that is to avoid accidents and spills like the Erika and Prestige.
Despite the great importance of these policies as mentioned above, they have been posing several challenges and ambiguities on shipowners and shipping companies. To begin with, on the 1st of January, 2015 ships operating in an emission – control areas must be fitted with engine emissions in order to reduce sulfur and carbon dioxide. In addition, along comes the ballast water convention, which will oblige ship owners to fit filters onboard in order to protect the local aquatic ecosystem caused by the unwanted introduction of foreign micro-organisms. Let us take the ballast water treatment system as an example, it is estimated that this equipment will cost between 1-5 million US dollars!

However, apart from the costs along come the ambiguities. To clarify, the ballast water treatment system and the technology that has to do with emissions are not available so far. Frankly speaking, the IMO while issuing policies are not checking if the required technologies are currently available. They are assuming that they will be available in the future when the conventions will come into force. Moreover, what make things much more complex and vague is the fact that there is no cooperation between policy makers particularly on the International level (IMO) and others on the national level (US). To illustrate, the ballast water treatment systems that enjoy certification from the IMO do not have automatic acceptance under the US rules, but must undergo a separate review. Some experts anticipated that the US might require more difficulty for equipment makers to satisfy than the IMO standards. These issues will leave ship owners in limbo.

At last, despite the fact that the IMO is not being sensible and pragmatic while issuing policies, it is worth remembering that these policies seem to be perfect solutions and positive approaches to build a sustainable and cleaner future for the forthcoming generations.

Omar Musharafieh, MA International Maritime Policy Student

Too Many Ships in the World Merchant Fleet

For ship spotters and maritime historians, it was an event of great significance. Back in 2005 the world fleet of cargo-carrying ships reached the symbolic 50,000 number. Today there are many more, and their capacity has risen enormously. For shipowners and market analysts, this enlargement is also significant, but has worrying overtones: expansion in many categories has greatly exceeded the growth of seaborne trade and demand for these vessels. The result has been varying degrees of depressed shipping markets over much of the past few years.

The world merchant ship fleet is very large, probably larger than most people would guess. But just how many vessels are there? What is their cargo carrying capacity? How did this fleet develop in recent years and why? And what is the outlook for the future? The answers to these questions are of interest not only to those participating in, or merely observing, this remarkable industry; they are scrutinised intensely within academic maritime studies at GMI.

Fleet statistics weave a fascinating pattern. By mid-2011 the world’s entire fleet of all types of commercial ships over one hundred tons had increased its gross tonnage to 1 billion. At the end of last year the total reached 1.09 billion GT, numbering 86,300 ships. This gigantic armada includes not only the vast fleets of bulk carriers, tankers and container ships, but also a wide range of other types. General cargo vessels, multi-purpose ships, car carriers, roll on-roll off vessels, gas carriers, reefer tonnage, cruise ships, offshore service vessels and others (such as tugs and dredgers) are represented. Many perform services which do not involve carrying cargo, of course.

According to figures compiled by shipping information providers Clarksons, another (nautical) milestone was attained recently. The world’s fleet of vessels actually carrying cargo – which had numbered 50,000 over seven years ago – reached 1 billion GT in September last year, and since then has grown to 1.01 billion, comprising 57,400 ships, today. It is especially significant that this achievement resulted from cumulative growth of an astounding 43 percent over the past five years, averaging 7.5 percent annually.

Looking at the fleet statistics in more detail reveals some impressive performances over the past few years. Expansion rates in the largest sectors have been rapid. Measured by deadweight volume, the tonnage measurement normally used in the bulk markets, the world fleet of bulk carriers has grown by 73 percent in the past five years. At the end of 2012 there were 9,500 bulk carriers totalling 679 million dwt. The tanker fleet’s growth was 29 percent during the same period, to a total of 515 million dwt (13,500 ships, including 7,700 small tankers below 10,000 dwt). In the container ship sector, where the standard measurement is TEUs (twenty-foot-equivalent units), the world fleet reached 5,100 ships totalling 16.2 million TEU at the end of 2012, after growing by 50 percent over a five-year period.

Why is all this a problem? Unfortunately (for shipowners and their bankers), expansion of transportation capacity in the main fleet sectors has outpaced the growth of global seaborne trade and demand for shipping services. The market’s two sides are often out of balance, to some extent, but in the present cycle the imbalance (oversupply) is particularly large and persistent and is having a brutal impact on freight earnings and profitability.

Contrary to many perceptions, international cargo movements have been growing quite vigorously in recent years. There has been a good recovery from the damaging setback experienced in late 2008 and 2009, when the global financial crisis caused the ‘Great Recession’, which severely but temporarily reduced world economic activity and trade volumes. The upwards trend in seaborne trade resumed and continues, with most forecasts suggesting further strengthening through 2013. A positive trade scene is therefore evolving; some other factors which affect shipping demand have been beneficial as well. On the other side of the balance sheet, enormous amounts of new shipping capacity coming in to the marketplace (partly offset by higher scrapping) has greatly swelled the fleet, as discussed. Much of this new tonnage, or ‘newbuildings’, was ordered at shipbuilding yards in better times when the shipping markets were booming. The result – more rapid fleet expansion than needed – is still unfolding and signs suggest it will continue.

Where do we go from here? Forecasters in this notoriously hard-to-predict industry are frequently wrong-footed by unanticipated events. If the world economy soon takes off again and stays there, boosting trade, surplus shipping capacity could be quickly eliminated, but few expect that to happen. Although China’s economic growth appears to be reviving, the USA is picking up, and Japan could start regaining momentum, Europe’s economy is still in the doldrums and probably will remain there for a while. Political events could disrupt trading patterns and potentially add to demand for ships, but these circumstances are essentially unpredictable. There are other factors, of course, but no indications at present of a quick solution to the fleet over-capacity problem. The scale of the problem, although diminishing, is still so large that adjustment towards a better balance may yet take some time to complete.

Richard Scott
GMI visiting lecturer and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis

How do the Greek ship-owners profit from the global financial crisis?

According to a Moody’s Investors Service analysis, the global shipping slump is expected to last well into 2013 as a glut of vessels and a growing credit squeeze will challenge even the toughest companies in the seaborne sector.

Shipping companies, especially in the oil tanker and dry bulk sectors, already hit by worsening economic turmoil, weak earnings and oversupply ordered in the good times, now face tighter financing as banks cut their exposure to risky and dollar denominated assets such as ship finance to meet tougher capital rules.

However, the above mentioned shipping-related crisis seems to reinforce the Greek ship-owners, who were able to save liquidity thanks to very good years they had, and to keep significant funds in their “coffers.” And now, just before overcoming the crisis, they are trying to seize the newly emerged business opportunities.

Within a year, the ships have lost up to 24% of their value, while compared to the golden era of 2008 the prices have dropped by as much as 100 million U.S. dollars according to estimates made by the Baltic Exchange.

Despite the fact that there is a serious lack of funds available in the credit market, making it difficult for borrowers to obtain necessary financing, and despite the limited funds, compared with the previous two years, that the Greek ship-owners raised in 2012 from the New York Stock Exchange amounting to 1,129 billion U.S. dollars (source: XRTC Ltd Business Consultants), the Greek ship-owners of the Piraeus port – the Greek shipping centre – are undismayed.

According to Golden Destiny S.A., in 2012, the Greek ship-owners bought 216 ships, having invested more than 3,850 billion U.S. dollars, while in 2011 they had bought 198 ships, investing 4,744 billion U.S. dollars.

Within the first two months of 2013 the Greek ship-owners have doubled their purchases of ships and in January they signed a series of new shipbuilding contracts, anticipating that their prices have fallen to such an extent that according to them it was not worth waiting for any longer, risking losing opportunities through their hands. Indeed, Greek ship-owners have started focusing especially on the market of dry cargo vessels, where there are some preliminary estimates that the crisis might come to an end much sooner.

It is estimated that in January and February, Greek ship-owners invested on the purchase of ships almost 530 million U.S. dollars, 100 million more than their 433 million invest of last year, and in January they signed shipbuilding contracts worth 1.5 billion U.S. dollars.

What is interesting, is that today the majority of the Greek ship-owners have the opportunity to buy more than four large dry cargo ships (capesize vessels – typically above 150,000 long tons deadweight (DWT)), aged just five years, at a price that was enough to buy just a single vessel in March 2008. In other words, currently, the Greek ship-owners are buying a large dry cargo ship at a price of 29,8 million U.S. dollars, when a year ago they had to spend almost 34,8 million U.S. dollars – that is, a decrease of 14% – while in 2008 they would have needed funds worth 140 million U.S. dollars.

Another example is the following: today, a panamax (typically, cargo ships of 65,000 – 80,000 tons of deadweight (DWT)) is purchased by a Greek ship-owner at a price of 18,5 million U.S. dollars compared to 24,4 million dollars just a year ago – a 24% drop – while in 2008 the price of such a ship amounted to 81.5 million dollars, 63 million dollars more than the price of 2013.

One more indicative paradigm comes from the market of supramaxes (bulk carriers with a capacity less than 60,000 tons of deadweight (DWT)). In 2008, with an amount of almost 67 million U.S. dollars a Greek ship-owner would have bought a supramax, while at current law prices he can buy more than three such ships. Today, a five year old supramax vessel has an estimated price of 18,1 million U.S. dollars, while just a year ago the same vessel would have been bought at a price of almost 23,3 million dollars, which means a drop of 22%. And if we go back to 2008, for a purchase of such a vessel a ship-owner would have needed funds worth 68,6 million dollars.

Despite the fact that the above mentioned large fall in ship prices has brought many shipping companies in an extremely difficult position, it has also created great business opportunities to take advantage of.

The shipping market expects that the Greek ship-owners will continue in the coming months to buy ships. However, what is worth noting, as mentioned by several international bankers and shipbrokers, is the fact that today the majority of Greek ship-owners, who buy new or used vessels are, in most cases, traditional ship-owners, who prefer to do business outside the global system of stock exchanges and markets, and who prefer to be based on their own families’ funds, which make them move quickly, safer, and more targeted in order to strengthen their presence in the global shipping market after the crisis.

However, the strengthening of the position of Greek ship-owners has not only to do with the chartering sector, but with the sale of vessels, as well. With prices of ships standing, currently, at such low levels, the Greek ship-owning community is ready to redeem its investments at the right time, when prices reach the desired levels and once the Greek ship-owners have recouped their investment in a relatively short time.

After all, it is well known that Greeks belong to the prime maritime nation, which traditionally wins money by “playing” in the stock markets of ships’ prices. This is something that happened several times before 2008, when Greek ship-owners chose to proceed to a series of massive sales of tankers and of dry bulk vessels, characterized by the international press as great maritime agreements, having resulted in gains of several hundred million dollars.

Dr Panos Kapetanakis

Public Seminar Announcement – ‘Managing Global Enterprises in the Late 18th Century: Anthony Calvert of the Crescent, London’

Camden, Calvert & King was one of Britain’s first truly global enterprises. In 1792, the firm had 8,300 tons of shipping at sea, on 25 different voyages to Africa, the West Indies, to Africa and the West Indies (in the slave trade), the East Indies, Botany Bay and the East Indies (in the convict trade) and the Pacific (in the whale trade). While none of the firm’s own records have survived, Gary Sturgess and Ken Cozens have reconstructed their business affairs from archives scattered across the world. This seminar will focus on the managing partner, Anthony Calvert, how he built the firm and the methods through which he created a global enterprise.

 Speaker Gary Sturgess currently holds the New South Wales Premier’s Chair of Public Service Delivery at the University of NSW and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, and has an Adjunct Professorship at the School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University in Brisbane, Queensland. His career has been spent in government, as Cabinet Secretary in the NSW Government in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and as Director of a corporate think tank in London, specialising in public service contracting.

 Everyone is welcome to attend, the seminar on Wednesday 10th October 2012 which will begin at 6pm, it is free to attend and no booking is required. It will be held in Room 075, Queen Anne Court, University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London, SE10 9LS.

Legacy for London Waterways?



by David Hilling

For too long Britain has turned its back on water transport but government rhetoric and a wide range of environmental considerations suggest that we should go back to water transport wherever possible.  Mode shift back to water has been recognised with the creation of a Mode Shift Centre by the Freight Transport Association.

As part of a World Heritage Site, its proximity to the National Maritime Museum and the recently restored Cutty Sark and with a view over the Thames , the GMI could hardly be other than concerned with the idea of legacy. It was, of course, a case based on its possible legacy that brought the Olympics to Stratford and Greenwich Park and much is now being made  of this with respect to sporting activities and a transformation of East London based on residential, cultural and commercial developments in the area of the Olympic Park.

But why not a legacy for waterway transport?  Look out of GMI’s windows at the underutilised highway that is the Thames and the few remaining Greenwich peninsula wharves used for freight – does it have to be like this? Every year over 600,000 tonnes of containerised London waste is barged from Wandsworth to an incinerator wharf at Belvedere and Crossrail used barges to move excavated material away from its Canary Wharf station site. In October dredging of Bow Creek will facilitate barge removal of Crossrail tunnel excavated material from Limmo and Instone wharves.

Bow Creek is but the southern end of the Lee Navigation which passes through the Olympic Park to Edmonton (where there is already a waterside incinerator plant), Enfield and on into Hertfordshire – a waterway which stimulated food production and industries for the expanding London market. The new developments proposed for the Olympic Park area will require considerable excavation, vast quantities of aggregates and other building materials and will create land uses which continue to generate waste and recyclables way into the future. There could, indeed should, be a role for water transport in this and the London Legacy Development Corporation is being urged to give it serious consideration and ensure that possible wharf sites and their accessibility are not taken over by land uses for which a waterside location is not a necessary condition.

Dr David Hilling is Research Adviser and Visiting Lecturer in Maritime History at the Greenwich Maritime Institute.  He was a lecturer in Geography at the University of Ghana from 1961-66 and a lecturer and senior lecturer at the University of London (Bedford College and Royal Holloway), until retirement in 1996. He has undertaken consultancy work on African port organisation and the cruise shipping market and destination/port lecturing on cruise ships (Western Mediterranean, Iberia, Atlantic Islands, Western Africa). During his career he has lectured at the Universities of Western Michigan and West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. Dr Hilling is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He is also UK vice president of the European River Sea Transport Union.

Image by Victoria Carolan

GMI Research Seminar – ‘The Secretive Billionaire: Sir John Reeves Ellerman’, 14th March 2012

Michaela Barnard of the Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull will presenting the next GMI Research Seminar of the 2011/12 programme on Wednesday 14th March 2012. Her paper is ‘The ‘secretive billionaire’: Sir John Reeves Ellerman and the Ellerman Wilson Line, c.1916-1926.’.

A so-called secret rich list’ of Britain’s wealthiest private citizens produced in 1929 revealed that Sir John Reeves Ellerman (1862-1933) had accumulated assets well beyond those of his contemporaries. Indeed, with annual earnings totalling £389 million in 1929 and liquid assets of around £9 billion, Ellerman’s fortune, according to Rubenstein, ’was three times greater than the second largest British estate left prior to the 1970s’. It remains, however, that relatively little is known – either personally or professionally – about Ellerman who had an ‘almost morbid passion for secrecy’. Indeed, the extent to which he remained aloof from public life is encapsulated in one obituary describing him as ‘… the Silent Ford, the invisible Rockefeller’.

Ellerman’s business empire embraced a variety of industries including finance, newspapers and brewing. But shipping ranked as one of his earliest and leading concerns. In 1916, with a view to consolidating his position in north-west Europe, Ellerman bought the Hull-based shipping company of Thomas Wilson, Sons & Co., Ltd (TWSC) – reputedly the largest privately owned shipping company in the world at that time – for the sum of £4.1 million. This paper considers a number of sources relating to TWSC, re-styled Ellerman’s Wilson Line (EWL), during the period 1916-1926, including the extensive correspondence between Ellerman and the Managing Director of TWSC/EWL, Oswald Sanderson (1863-1926). This, it is anticipated, will serve to illuminate our understanding of both large-scale British business during this period and, more particularly, Ellerman – the ‘secretive billionaire’.

The seminar will take place in room 075, Queen Anne Court at 6pm. Tea & Coffee will be available from 5.30pm and a glass of wine afterwards. The seminar is free and there is no need to book, everyone is welcome.

MV Iceberg – Hostages released after 19 months

On Tuesday 25th October, MV Iceberg, along with 23 hostages has been released from Somali pirates after 19 months with the help of Dubai Government.
The ship carried a crew including people from several countries.
MV Iceberg, a Panama ship, was hijacked by pirates on March 29, 2010 and later demanded 8 million dollars for the release of the ship along with crew.
The chief engineer of the ship had committed suicide after it was hijacked by the Somali pirates.
The BBC made no reference to the release on their website at all and Lloyd’s List published a small article on page 2 in Wednesday’s edition.