The world is a strange place, and it seems to be getting stranger by the day at times. Things we never would have even considered a decade or two ago are coming true today. Some of these things feel as if they are scripts for a TV show or a movie, yet when you take a close and sobering look at them, they are true. This is the story of container ships stranded offshore here on Vancouver Island, and how difficult it is to imagine the circumstances that brought these events together.
We’ve been working on so many different exciting projects lately, it’s an amazing time here at The Hollow. One of these projects found us just offshore from the city of Victoria recently in a boat working on a photography project for a client. During this excursion we couldn’t help but notice a handful of container ships that were nearby, and although ships of this sort aren’t completely out of the ordinary around these parts, there was something different about this scene. Something we couldn’t put our finger on until a few days later when a newspaper article made everything clear.
Far in the background in these shots you can see the Olympic Mountain Range, which sits in the northwestern corner of the United States. The straits between Canada and the US in this region are prime sources of ingress/egress for ships of this type, and you can see these ships traversing these waters on any given day usually, coming in from all sorts of locations in Asia. What was different on this day was how these ships appeared to be anchored. Unmoving Goliaths of industry that were sitting still, awaiting orders.
Back in August of this year, Korea’s Hanjin Shipping company went into receivership. Millions of dollars of unpaid bills resulted in what is termed “the arrest of these massive ships”, bringing us to today where they are now anchored in limbo, awaiting their fate. You can read their story here “Cargo ship and 22 crew members in limbo in waters near Victoria” in the CBC News.
This struck a chord with me as I recalled reading a similar story just a few weeks back on an artist who was suddenly stuck at sea due to this economic collapse:
As quoted in the article: “British artist stranded at sea after Hanjin shipping company goes bankrupt”
Hanjin Shipping Co., the world’s seventh-largest shipping container company, has an estimated US$14 billion in goods on dozens of ships around the world.
The company’s collapse under debts of $5.5 billion has caused havoc in global trade networks and a surge in freight rates.
If you read the article, you will see that these events have far-reaching implications, in many cases in ways that would be difficult to conceive for those of us who aren’t totally versed in this industry. For example, there was talk that if these ships docked, they would be seized along with their cargo to satisfy the massive debts incurred. This has a down stream effect for people who are waiting for the myriad of containers and cargo that these ships are transporting. Perhaps to the level that it could have a noticeable impact on the pending holiday season that is right around the corner.
You can well imagine the impact this has on the crew left wandering the decks here, too. After days of being essentially lost and stranded offshore, boredom would become a real entity that would become a weight upon your very soul. It sounded as if leaving the ships was absolutely out of the question, and it seemed that the head office that once directed these huge ships weren’t even answering emails or phone calls anymore. What would you do? And furthermore, when considered in the context of the value of the ships and the cargoes they carry, this becomes an overwhelming concept to fully appreciate.
There is some good news for the crew beyond all this as word has arrived revealing the ships will be allowed to dock in Vancouver, just a short trip away from the city of Victoria. You can read all about this aspect of the story here “Hanjin cargo ship docks in Vancouver after weeks of uncertainty“.
For us, it is so hard to comprehend how assets worth billions of dollars one day can suddenly be metaphorically abandoned by the company the next. What will happen to the ships themselves, and their cargo? These aren’t the sort of things that appear on AutoTrader suddenly. These ships are the sort of things that other shipping companies would be interested in owning, but with the global economy being what it is these days, and the events that brought this story to life, is there any interest in them? Are they going to be scrapped?
We don’t presume for a moment to have an understanding or answers to any of these questions, but one thing is abundantly true with stories like this; this sort of thing was completely incomprehensible as a true story a few years back. Times are changing.
Thank you very much for your visit to The Hollow here today, we really appreciate it. As always, we love to hear from all our visitors, so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below.