September 13, 2016

Hanjin Ships Allowed to Offload (in U.S. Ports at Least)

About two weeks ago Hanjin Lines, Korea's largest shipping company, filed for bankruptcy protections. This has worrying implications for the shipping industry in general, but the story escalated quickly.  


Ports subsequently blocked Hanjin vessels from docking out of fear that they would not be paid docking fees. This stranded the crews on ships with dwindling supplies of food and fuel. This was partially mitigated last week, when a court ruling enabled certain U.S. ports to allow Hanjin ships already en route to tie up and offload. However, There are still issues...
Creditors have sought an arrest warrant against the Seaspan Efficiency, a ship hauling cargo for Hanjin that was due to arrive in Savannah. Wang said the cargo concerned amounted to just around $800,000 and that he was confident the parties involved could come to an agreement.  

Additionally, things are not being resolved so smoothly elsewhere in the world where numerous vessels  are still stranded at sea with dwindling supplies. Lloyd's List has an interactive map


Screengrabbed from Lloyd's Sept 13, 15:46

This is, as one might expect, playing havoc with the global supply chain.
"The fallout of Hanjin Shipping is like Lehman Brothers to the financial markets,” Wang said. "It’s a huge, huge nuclear bomb. It shakes up the supply chain, the cornerstone of globalization.”
 

This will also likely cause an increase in shipping costs going into the Christmas season. 

Note though, that the Baltic Dry Index, has recovered from its alarming  slump earlier in the year, so, leading indicators are, at least mixed (unless you're in Australia...Then you're doomed apparently.)

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March 13, 2016

Rainbow Swans

If one sees a major and unpleasant event approaching, it can't really be called a black swan can it?


To wit:

The London Telegraph has an overview of all the things that are going wrong at once in the world economy.
 Two of the world's three major central banks have slashed interest rates in to negative territory.  


We've noted the decline in the shipping industry (focusing particularly on the Baltic Dry Index) for a while. This BBC article points out the scale of the issue.  
 And here's the thing - the dry bulk index - also called the Baltic Dry Bulk Index - saw a peak of 11,000 points in May of 2008, just before the global financial crisis.
This year it has hit fresh record lows and skirted around the 300 points mark.
What this tells you is that global trade is nowhere near the levels it was pre-2008.
So the 'green shoots of recovery' you hear policy-makers and economists talking about, that's not being seen on the global shipping routes or lanes.  

More on global shipping here:
 Entering January 2016, Chinese imports fell for 13 consecutive months and declined by more than 20% between 2014 and 2015. Bulk shipping will be one of the many globally affected industries. Most experts look for continued weakness in the foreseeable future. The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index, which charts the rates for dry bulk commodity shipments, hit an all-time low in December 2015.
 
According to the article, 2016 is expected to be worse. 
The same article looks separately at the three main aspects of the shipping industry. Generally, dry bulk refers to commodities like coal, steel and other raw materials. the container sector, is as one would expect focused on shipping containers (though things like RO-ROs shipping cars would be included as a subset. The thing about container shipping is that it deals in manufactured goods. There is not a 1 to 1 correlation with dry bulk shipping since a lot of dry bulk cargoes go to major heavy industries and infrastructure projects, so the downturn in China's construction boom does not necesarily portend a...oh wait...  
 Containers were unprofitable every year between 2009 and 2014, per McKinsey & Company, a market research company, and 2015 was even worse. Bulk carriers receive a lot of headline attention because they carry major commodities such as steel and iron, but container purchases and delivery rates are arguably more indicative of broader economic conditions. 
 Those economic conditions would seem to suck.

Tankers obviously ship chemicals, of which petroleum products are the most common. The fact that the drop in oil prices has helped to moderate the decline in oil consumption and the fact that tankers can make some money being used as anchored oil storage tanks has meant that tankers are the least disastrous sector of the shipping industry.

The portents are not good, but that means that these problems at least are not in any way unexpected. So prepare yourselves. 





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October 23, 2015

The Journey of Learning Never Ends...

Tonight I discovered that Buffalo Bob's Mild Alligator Jerky is not a particularly delectable comestible.

Rather the opposite in fact. 
So much so that I felt the need to post about it. 

Here is a palate cleanser.



Be advised that ice cream can be bad for you....especially this kind. 




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June 09, 2015

Customer Service

A recent filler post generated more comments than any other in the history of this blog. While I do not, in general, subscribe to the creative fallacy that is "chasing the hit"; filler posts are generally compensation for a lack of regular content. Thus, it seems prudent and polite to take stock of what is generating reader interest. 


After careful analysis of both the content of the much discussed post and its comments to determine the precise focus of my reader's interest,  I have tentatively ruled out the Moon Pies. 

With that in mind, here, gentle reader, is another short girl with an atypical body type who is sporting a ribbon...


Source Unknown!
Enjoy!

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June 07, 2015

The Top Story On Drudge

......, as I type this, is that a horse has won the Triple Crown.



This does not seem to meet the requirements of "News".
If a Galapagos Tortoise had won the Triple Crown now THAT would be news, if only because said victory would be indicative of serious issues with the horses and quite possibly fraud on behalf of the tortoise.

Of course such newsworthy information would likely be ignored in that case and the lede would be speculation as to whether the tortoise identified as a horse*...which would dominate the news cycle for a week. 

I bring this up because, while the story might warrant a mention and could even be a top tier story on a slow news day, today is not one of hose days. 

There was a Bomb threat at a meet and greet for the republican presidential candidates.

The Chinese have announced that "ALL OF YOUR BRIBABLE SECRETS ARE BELONG TO US!"


On a recent test, to see if they could stop terrorists, the TSA got a 95%...FAILURE RATE.

A U.S. government customs helicopter was shot down Friday over Laredo Texas while pursuing drug smugglers. The anti-aircraft fire came from across the border in Mexico.  The helicopter reportedly took three hits one of which was in the engine. 

. The shooting came from the Mexican side and all individuals fled and got away. The individuals on the U.S. side also got away into the state of Texas.


But hey...a horse has won a horserace. 


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March 02, 2015

Stuff...

I have contracted a case of the Martian Death Flu which has kneecapped my creativity. In the interests of content here are a few random links. 


First some good news: A Boko Haram force, while attempting to move into southern Chad encountered a Chadian Army unit which curb-stomped them. Boko Haram's losses were 207 killed against Chad's one dead and nine wounded. Chad also seized large quantities of small arms and ammunition left behind by the murderous, feral nutbars.

A US Military satellite has exploded in orbit. The 20 year old DMSP-F13 reported a temperature spike before breaking into 43 pieces. The loss occurred on February 3rd but was only reported Saturday.

The U.S. Korea Institute has issued a projection of how many nuclear weapons North Korea will have in 2020. The estimate is between 20 and more than 100. That's a rather....large spread.  There is an interview with the researchers over at The Diplomat. It can be heard here

We've mentioned before that America's B-61 nuclear bombs are being reduced in yield from 340KT to 50KT (while at the same same time massively increasing the accuracy). There is much more on this here. Note the buried lede 29 paragraphs down:
As part of this plan, the U.S. would eliminate the megaton-class B83 gravity bomb.

With a yield variable from a few kilotons to 1.2 megatons B-83 is by far the most powerful weapon remaining in the arsenal. The B-83 is also a much more modern nuclear bomb than the B-61. Yet this weapon is being removed from the arsenal, to be replaced with two downgraded versions of the old B-61 with 50 and 100 kiloton maximum yields. While lower yields and greater accuracy do reduce collateral damage, nuclear deterrence involves having the potential to maximize damage to the infrastructure of the country being deterred.  Also, ones accuracy is only as good as one's targeting, and while missile silos and military bases might well be eliminated with 50 kiloton blasts, the great SCUD hunt reminds us that hunting for the mobile land based missiles is not at all easy and could well involve a lot of imprecise targeting in a general area, where the greater 'earthquake effect' of the earth penetrating B-83 might be valuable. Finally, there is the possibility that a nation with a different values set than ours might conclude that even 1000 or more 50-100kt  weapons hitting their strategic targets would be survivable as a nation, whereas a similar number of megaton class weapons would allow no recovery for us, thus in their twisted logic, victory. This is more likely if one has 4 times our population and a Maoist outlook that might consider one's large population to represent...spares. Increasing the accuracy of the arsenal is surely a good idea, as it makes the deterrent more credible, but getting rid of our most powerful bomb (which is variable yield in any event) seems rather ill considered.

As we have again mentioned "nukes", here is a picture of 21 kilotons of 'splody. 




Pete Zaitcev takes a break from aviation blogging to express his thoughts on the Ukrainian situation



What is being described as "vandalism" resulted in internet, phone, and cell service being disrupted across a wide swath of Arizona on Wednesday

Something is quite rotten at UCLA

Carly Fiorina asks a reasonable question


Ebola has not been in the news lately as it has not been spreading as fast as feared, but it has managed to kill 10,000 thus far and get into the vice Presidential offices of Sierra Leone...oh and it is now believed that airborne transmission is very likely in certain circumstances. ISTR those who suggested this earlier were called bad names. Additonally, it has recently been revealed via a freedom of information request that Ebola does, in fact seem to be a serious concern to the military with regard to its weaponization by terrorists


The first scenario outlined is completely redacted, illustrating the acute sensitivity about the issue. The second scenario is heavily blacked out but, according to the memo, "would be both logistically and technically challenging for a non-state group to undertake".


Well...that's reassuring. And I mean that with the same level of sarcasm that I say this is reassuring as well. 



Finally, some Taiwanese news outfit has thoughts on Net Neutrality.

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October 24, 2014

We Have Morons on Our Team

It seems that Craig Spencer, a doctor with Medicines Sans Frontiers, recently returned from the ebola hot zone in Africa. 10 days or so into his 21 day quarantine period he began feeling ill. This sad news, is, of course, not unexpected. It is why we have the quarantine for those who are exposed to this vile bug. Unfortunately, it gets worse. You see, he began feeling ill, when, as part of his..umm...quarantine...he had taken the subway to that bastion of solitude that is...a bowling alley.



Ace has thoughts
Yup. That's what you like to see. Potentially infected people should really try to mix with as many random strangers as possible. They should try to wear as many rented shoes as possible, and stick their fingers into bowling balls that other people will be handling.
 Also stand in line for food. 

I understand, that he took an Uber home.

Good grief. 
This was a fricking DOCTOR! He had just spent a tour witnessing up close what this dreadful pestilence can do, and he broke quarantine?! To go BOWLING!? 

Dr. Reynolds has a bunch of links on this here

People gave grief to the late Thomas Duncan who was, at one point, told that he was clear and sent home, but this guy was a doctor with direct experience with this disease...he knew better. Presumably, he just decided that it wasn't going to happen to him.

 Hubris kills, and it does not confine its wrath to the arrogant. 

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July 26, 2014

De-Escalation

I don't think that word means what some Russians think it does.

 "de-escalation”—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike. 

It's probably just a translation glitch. Do read the whole thing.

The gist of the article is that Russian policy is such that in the event of a major military confrontation in their immediate sphere of influence (Chechnya is specifically mentioned) , a very limited nuclear strike will cause the other side to pause and reflect., thereby defusing the situation. There is another, albeit rather dated, article on this policy here

Russia is not the only country that does not have a no first use policy. The same is true of the US and France for instance and US policy has been that if attacked with non-nuclear WMDs (especially a severe biological attack) nukes might be used. However, the Russian policy is odd in assuming that this will lead to a racheting DOWN of tensions. Once nukes start popping off, the potential for things to go completely pear shaped becomes very great indeed. 


 

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July 06, 2014

Well, Dang...

This is awkward....



pic via Scott Lowther, who points out other photos of the fiasco here

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January 30, 2014

The Difference Between Snowflakes and Zombies


Real life vs Walking Dead


In Atlanta anyway.


Gizmodo has a surprisingly good piece by a transplanted Northerner that explains the situation to his sneering former neighbors.


 Birmingham is one of those cities that shuts down at the faintest hint of snow. Again, this isn’t because we are rubes who wonder why God’s tears have turned white and fall slower. It’s because the city does not have the infrastructure in place to handle snow, and is self-aware enough to realize it. If you don’t know how to swim, just stay out of the pool. Easy.

This time, though, the city did not shut down. Schools were open. Places of business kept businessing. That’s because as of Tuesday morning, we were being told that all that was coming was a light dusting


Read the whole thing.

I'm not sure there wasn't a major screw up in Atlanta, but the southeast got, in addition to the snow, a good deal of ice in some places, and that, combined with the storm shifting at the last moment really caused problems.

One exchange in the comments stands out though, in response to those who helpfully stressing the importance of driving slow came THIS profound insight.....



Ummm...that's your scenario too.

Listen. If you know how to drive in snow well enough that you don't need to slow down....YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE IN SNOW.  "Mr. Snow Is Scary" is the one doing it right.

Now I realize that for some of our readers, if you don't have to break out the aerosani, then it ain't really snow, but no matter how great the snowfall, one of the most important safety tips is to know your limitations. Driving slow is a rational, sensible response.

Here locally, we have 8 inches on the ground in Portsmouth, which is more than we've gotten in over a decade. (The other side of the Roads often gets more, but here on the Southside any accumulation is rare) The area is still shut down and schools are expected to remain closed tomorrow.



It will be 65 this weekend.

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