A Student Perspective: Shipping Pools, Liner Conferences by another name?

Shipping Pools. Refer to them as you wish: the reincarnation of a bygone shipping system, shipping economic metamorphosis, old wine in a new bottle, the 3rd way shipping method – whichever way you want, the core facts remain unchanged. Shipping pools are the Liner Conference systems all over again, right?

For a century and half or thereabouts, shipping concerns were able to arrange themselves into cartels called conferences in a bid to agree, among other things:
• the quantity of goods that could be allowed on the market at any one time
• the schedules of deliveries
• the freight rates
• the terms of contracts
• the allotments of freight to be ferried by individual ship owners (quotas)

This easy, unchallenged way of making money continued even after the birth of the mother of all supra-national policymaking institutions, the EEC, the forerunner of the EU. These cartels were exempted from all European competition laws for many years as a way of protecting the European shipping industry – a kind of bulwark against flag of convenience shipping, a way of augmenting Europe’s lost competitive edge in the global market place – a way of ensuring greater prosperity in Europe. Can you believe it? Yes. Take it from me. It is true. Shameful but true, really.

However, everything came to an end when in the wake of immense pressure from the United States and GATT, the predecessor the World Trade Organization (WTO), it suddenly dawned on the Europeans that the conferencing business model was not only utterly uncompetitive but also hugely unfair to all non European shipping companies and all non European consumers, especially those in dirt poor developing countries. Hence, under EU guidance, the Liner Conference system was faced out slowly and finally prohibited on 17 October 2008. It was said then that a breach of the prohibition would result into hefty fines, anything up to and beyond a shipping company’s global one year profits.

Gee. How did the ending of the Conference impact European ship owners? How did it impact freight rates and surcharges worldwide? What about service levels – did they go up or down? It is reasonable to wonder if someone has ever incurred the wrath of the EU, right – and how much was the penalty? How did it impact regional port throughputs? What about impoverished states – how did the end of the Conference impact them? Be a good maritime student. Find out on your own. Every good admiralty and maritime law guide published after 2008 have answers to these questions.
Tell me. How are liner conferences different from shipping pools? Are they one and the same animal? What are shipping pools, anyway? Read my next piece to find the answers to these hot questions.

Gola Traub, MA International Maritime Policy Student

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.

GMI Short Course Programme 2012

We are delighted to announce that we are running an exciting short course programme again this year which covers a variety of historical and contemporary subjects.

• Maritime Crime: There’s Wreckers About – Saturday 9th June – £60

• Silencing the Silent Service?: Naval Propaganda and Censorship during the Second World War – Thursday 14th June – £60

• ‘Enemies of All Humanity’: Sea Piracy A Modern Perspective – Saturday 16th June – £60

• Caricature and the Navy during the Eighteenth Century – Thursday 28th June – £60

• Baroque Navies at War: Britain, the Netherlands and France 1688-1713 – Friday 29th and Saturday 30th June – £120

• China’s Rise as a Powerful Maritime Nation: Factors and Influences – Friday 20th July – £60

Everyone is welcome to register for these courses so please do feel free to register yourself or pass on to anyone else you think may be interested. You can find more information about each course and a registration form on our website: http://bit.ly/wATcht