Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Shipping rates hit zero as trade sinks

with 4 comments

The Daily Telegraph (UK)

Following the new reader mandated policy of posting fresh rather than updating old posts here is more news from the world of shipping.

Freight rates for containers shipped from Asia to Europe have fallen to zero for the first time since records began, underscoring the dramatic collapse in trade since the world economy buckled in October.

Korea’s exports fell 30pc in January compared to a year earlier. Exports have slumped 42pc in Taiwan and 27pc in Japan, according to the most recent monthly data. Even China has now started to see an outright contraction in shipments, led by steel, electronics and textiles.

A report by ING yesterday said shipping activity at US ports has suddenly dived. Outbound traffic from Long Beach and Los Angeles, America’s two top ports, has fallen by 18pc year-on-year, a far more serious decline than anything seen in recent recessions.

That last was the story I picked up one earlier from another source.

Global trade is going to decline this year – the first year that has happened. The World Bank used the word “may” – I won’t.  Neither will I retract my earlier statements that the port expansion at Point Roberts and the associated highway megaprojects will be white elephants. Joining the Olympic Village and the Convention Centre as projects we wished we had never built. The 2010 Olympics will join the Montreal Olympics as the object lesson in public investments that went wrong.

One of the best lectures I ever attended was called “Great Planning Disasters” by Professor Peter Hall – and every single one the candidates was a transport project. (They included the Third London Airport, Concorde and London’s motorways.) That was a few years ago and in the UK. It gives me no pleasure at all to think that I will be able to take a PowerPoint slide show on the road in a few years time with the same title about projects in this region which we must cancel – now – while there is still time to change course.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Gateway, port expansion

4 Responses

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  1. I see that San Fransisco’s BART rapid transit system is included in the good professor’s case studies. As I recall, BART is ‘broad gauge’ (5’6″ gauge), so it is not compatible with existing railways and it’s automatic signaling system wasn’t up to scratch. One wonders why BART was included as a case study?

    Malcolm J.

    January 16, 2009 at 6:14 pm

  2. One reason could be that the Rohr corporation had no experience in building trains. They were an aerospace company. This meant that they did not know that urban railway passenger cars were normally built on a convex curve – so that when loaded the floor would be level. Rohr’s cars were straight but not rigid, so when they were loaded with passengers, the sliding doors (in pockets) would not operate.

    The Nixon administration said that if America could put a man on the moon, it should be able to get him downtown. It turned out that was a much more complex problem.

    BART paid the price of being first. A maxim I have always adhered to is that public transport systems are not well set up to be R&D organisations.

    Stephen Rees

    January 16, 2009 at 7:24 pm

  3. I sense a real determination from you Mr. Rees, I agree but what will it take to stop Falcon and Campbell?

    Startling numbers,I will go out on a limb myself,those numbers are going to fall even more in 2009

    Also President Obama is going to enact protectionism.

    Grant G

    January 16, 2009 at 8:12 pm

  4. Grant – you are not keeping up. Everything I read suggests that Obama has abandoned the position on free trade and NAFTA that he used in his campaign

    Stephen Rees

    January 18, 2009 at 2:18 pm


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