Latest Posts:

How to Destroy the American Shipping Business

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

For all Trump’s bleating about trade agreements hitting American business the USA has some blatantly unfair trade restrictions which not only hit other countries’ businesses, but also damage the very country they’re supposed to protect, ie the USA. Starting with the Jones Act. A recent article in The Economist about this ridiculous law was headlined ‘How protectionism sank America’s entire merchant fleet.’

The Jones Act stipulates that domestic US shipping can only be operated by US-built ships. Imagine if the French government announced that Air France could not use US built aircraft and should dump all those Boeing 777s please? Or Korea decided that Boeing aircraft were equally unacceptable for Korean Airlines or Asiana? My Silk Road MGB – between April and July I drove it from Bangkok to London – has just been returned to Australia on the Korean-built container ship Washington.

▲ Here’s the Washington quayside in Melbourne earlier this week. Well the Washington is fine for cargo between Europe and Australia, but it would be illegal to use it between, say, Miami and Puerto Rico, they’re both US ports so using a Korean-built cargo ship would be against the law. After Hurricane Irma the Jones Act had to be set aside for 10 days because it was impossible to resupply Puerto Rico using only Jones Act ships. No Korean cargo ships for the USA please, but there are lots of Boeing aircraft flying on the world’s busiest air route, between Seoul and Jeju Island in South Korea.

▲ Here I am in 2012 sailing out of New York City on the Cunard Queen Mary 2 on my way to Southampton in England. Cunard may be true blue British, but the QM2 was built in France and there’s no way it could be used between – again – Maimi and Puerto Rico. Nor could any of those other cruise ships shuttling out of Miami, they all have to go somewhere else, somewhere outside the USA, before they head to Puerto Rico. That way the trip is an international one and not subject to Jones Act restrictions. Container ships don’t get made in the USA and nor do cruise ships, check the sad story of the Pride of America, when for the first time in 50 years, an attempt was made to build an all-American cruise ship. Despite heavy government subsidies the uncompleted ship had to be towed across the Atlantic to be finished in Germany and then get special dispensation to be registered as an ‘American ship.’ Hawaii and Alaska provide special difficulties for cruises ships to comply with the law, from California a little diversion south to Mexico before heading to Hawaii will satisfy the rules. Seattle to Alaska? Forget it, better to write off the USA and operate to or from Vancouver in Canada.

▲ This is the Incat catamaran building yard on Hobart’s Derwent River in Tasmania, Australia. You pass it if you take the ferry service from the centre of Hobart to the amazing MONA (Museum of Old & New Art). Well Incat won’t be building any of their high-speed catamaran ferries for US operations either, again the Jones Act bans them even though Incat ferries operate all over the world. Yes Qantas and Virgin Australia both operate plenty of American Boeing aircraft.

So the Jones Act is extremely unfair to Korean, French or Australian shipbuilders, but it also has lots of negative effects on America:

• America’ shipping fleet has dwindled away to just 0.4% of the world’s total shipping.
• Britain’s shipping has three times the tonnage of the USA’s.
• The Jones Act so hobbles US shipping that while 40% of Europe’s domestic freight goes by sea, only 2% does in America.
• A Jones Act cargo ship costs five times as much as the same ship built in South Korea.
• Compromised by the Jones Act it costs twice as much to ship freight into Puerto Rico as it does to other nearby Caribbean Islands.
• Alaska, Hawaii and Guam businesses are also damaged by the Jones Act, Hawaiian cattle often have to be flown to the continental USA because shipping is not available or is too expensive.

How to Destroy the American Shipping Business

18 October 2017 | Living

For all Trump’s bleating about trade agreements hitting American business the USA has some blatantly unfair trade restrictions which not only hit other countries’ businesses, but also damage the very country they’re supposed to protect, ie the USA. Starting with the J...

View Post

Avoid SSSS on Your Boarding Pass

12 October 2017 | Transport

A recent news.com story underlined why it’s not nice to have SSSS stamped on your boarding pass in the USA. It means you’ve been lined up for Secondary Security Screening Selection and getting shuffled into ‘Secondary’ in the US is often not a pleasant procedure. At t...

View Post

Iran Air’s Airliner Order

11 October 2017 | Living

Donald Trump’s announcement that he would like to decertify the Iran nuclear deal – if it really happens and that is far from certain – could reimpose sanctions on Iran. Which conceivably could stall Iran Air’s aircraft orders. When the sanctions were shelved Iran Air...

View Post

In North Korea

9 October 2017 | Media

There’s absolutely no shortage of books about North Korea, I’ve even tackled the subject myself in my book Bad Lands. Donald Trump’s recent forays into the topic, with his less than successful verbal assault on the country’s ‘Rocket Man,’ only focused even more attent...

View Post

Two Steps Forward – along the Camino Santiago

5 October 2017 | Media

I had the pleasure on Tuesday night of launching the new Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist novel Two Steps Forward. In alternating chapter as Martin (recently divorced English engineer) and Zoe (recently widowed Californian artist) they set out to walk the Camino Santiago...

View Post

Nuclear Strikes, Mig-15s, Dumped Bicycles & Really Good Insults

2 October 2017 | Living

Two photos that show why North Korea isn’t going to be threatening anybody with nuclear missiles anytime soon. And one that shows why Kim Jong-Un is winning the insult battle. ▲ Check Orang Airport – 41°25'49.12"N – 129°38'45.95"E – on Google Earth. What are those ai...

View Post

Climbing Bali’s Threatening Mt Agung – & Other Volcanoes

1 October 2017 | Places

Over 100,000 people have been evacuated from the danger zone around Bali’s threatening Gunung Agung, an active volcano that last erupted in 1963. That eruption killed 1500 people and you’ll still see the lava flows if you drive out to the eastern side of Bali. I climb...

View Post

Women Behind the Wheel

27 September 2017 | Culture

The Australian daily email newsletter Crikey summed up the announcement that women would be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia fairly succinctly: The brutal theocratic regime of Saudi Arabia is suddenly everyone’s favourite fundamentalist gang of war criminals afte...

View Post

Australia’s Same Sex Marriage Survey

23 September 2017 | Culture

It’s a standard piece of political advice that you should never hold a referendum or any other vote you don’t need to if you don’t already know the result. That advice certainly held true with the Brexit vote, not only did the unexpected result end Prime Minister Davi...

View Post

Borders, Visas, China, Iran & ESTA Disqualification

22 September 2017 | Living

Skift, the online travel newsletter, reported recently on one area where the USA enjoys a considerable trade advantage with China: far more Chinese travellers visit the USA than vice versa and that disparity is growing. Over the past decade US tourism to China has onl...

View Post