May 13, 2009
Ships Tread Water, Waiting for Cargo
By KEITH BRADSHER
SINGAPORE — To go out in a small boat along Singapore’s coast now is to feel like a mouse tiptoeing through an endless herd of slumbering elephants.
One of the largest fleets of ships ever gathered idles here just outside one of the world’s busiest port, marooned by the receding tide of global trade. There may be tentative signs of economic recovery in spots around the globe, but few here.
Hundreds of cargo ships — 100,000 to 300,000 tons each, with the larger ones weighing more than the entire 130-ship Spanish Armada — bob so empty that they seem to perch on top of the water rather than in it, their red rudders and bulbous noses, submerged when the vessels are loaded, sticking a dozen feet out of the water.
So many ships have congregated here that shipping lines are becoming concerned about near misses and collisions in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most congested waterways.
The root of the problem lies in an unusually steep slump in global trade, a problem confirmed by trade statistics announced on Tuesday.
But the market is up, huh guys? We’ve turned a corner. Happy days are here again.
Or not. After Black October of 1929, we had a couple years of up and down, before down took over. Matter of fact, way down took over.
Nah. Won’t happen. The Democrats are all over this one.