a thoughtful web.
Good ideas and conversation. No ads, no tracking.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  785 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: America Is Running Out of Everything

Yeah I was annoyed because I took out some ETH at $1300 to buy my mill, and then had to wait six weeks and spend $2000 to get it here. By the time it showed up ETH was at $3300. Of course, by the time the mill got here the wait time had gone up to 3 months and the quote to ship it had broached $10k. I guess it's closer to $30k now. Derek Thompson's "I read this thing in the New York Times" reporting doesn't really touch on the fact that "reserving a container" is a tiny, tiny part of logistics.

What's funny is I've been buying stuff like a madman from China this year. All of it comes by air and gets here in a timely fashion. It's not the logistics that are snarled, it's the cheap logistics that are snarled. The price differential between "put 500lbs worth of heavy machinery on a boat" and "put 500lbs of heavy machinery on a plane" was about 2x back in March. I haven't tried to put anything that big on a plane since, but I've got maybe 40lbs worth of machine parts in the closet that were all shipped DHL for free since then.

i think that's part of the problem - this isn't really fucking up commerce. It's fucking up manufacturing. It's fucking up agriculture. It's fucking up production.

veen  ·  785 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Considering that anything complex is often just a combination of less complex, cheap parts... Isn't it then just a matter of time before commerce is next?

kleinbl00  ·  785 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't think so.

I'd be curious as to your take; you know hella more about transportation than I do. But in my brief foray into surface shipping, that shit is medieval. Basically, the laws haven't been touched since 1915. Big, dumb container ships only make sense because maritime laws are a giant loophole not subject to globalization; international quarantines and global economic slowdowns not only blasted through that veil like a shotgun, but the general response worldwide has been isolationism.

Shipment by air, on the other hand, belongs entirely to the FAA. We've basically allowed an American post-war bureaucracy to dictate air transshipment since the end of WWII and pretty much whatever the FAA wants, the FAA gets. Does air travel suck for the environment? Hells yeah. But shipment by sea involves bunker fuel and magic pipes so it's not like the alternatives are great. Big dumb heavy commodities that only made sense to ship by surface? They make a lot less sense to ship. Small smart light commodities that often got shipped by air? They're gonna be more expensive, but not catastrophically so.

You know who this isn't great for? Amazon and Ali Express. "Just give me the cheap Chinese version of the thing I really want" is going to become a lot less compelling, I think.

veen  ·  780 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I'd be curious as to your take; you know hella more about transportation than I do.

I hope I do, but in a fairly narrow range. I'd argue "transportation" is as broad as a category as "engineering"; the nuances of shipping logistics are approximately as far removed from my corner of transportation as chemical engineering is to you. I could've chosen that speciality, but I didn't, so beyond knowing some basics like what a TEU is I won't be able to provide much insight.

My worry however is not about the refined products, but about all the intermediary and low-value parts that are necessary to create refined products. If shipments are going to suck ass for the foreseeable future, and we have lost the ability to produce much of the basics locally, how are a lot of our products going to get made? A supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and I'm worried we're gonna see a lot more weak links the coming years, with problems 'trickling up' from "it's too expensive to ship iron to make bolts" to "it's too expensive to ship bolts to make bicycle frames" to "bicycles are twice expensive and/or out of stock".

The current GPU shortage is not exactly caused by these kinds of issues, but it does show just how difficult these processes are to improve or change when necessary.

kleinbl00  ·  779 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Been thinking about this. It's a bigger question than anybody really grasps, and a proper understanding of it, in my estimation, requires a lot of synthesis.

My hypothesis is that global shipping has been cost-effective because of the cost advantages of lax regulation, antiquated labor standards and a substantial disparity between "nations served" and "nations serving." On the one hand, COVID has forced a lot of industries to modernize. On the other hand, COVID has made awful occupations worse.

One of the things I've noticed among all the discussion of employment is that nobody is even bothering to capture the true number. We keep reporting the unemployment rolls as if they mean anything - if you can't collect unemployment, you have zero incentive to report and everyone's unemployment ran out three weeks ago yet this fact has been utterly absent from the discussions. Similarly, "global shipping dominance" will give you a list of flags-of-convenience which are absolutely, fundamentally, entirely irrelevant to the discussion. No, Greece and Panama are not the world's largest shipping nations. It's China by a mile.

I believe the shipping industry is exquisitely sensitive to political pressure. The Biden administration could fuck things up for China through executive order or bureaucratic (what an awful word) action. This bird?

That's a shipping interdiction bird.

I think the Biden administration, as well as the G8, could radically change the face of globalism without anyone getting a vote. Without anyone getting a memo. Do a google news search on "biden shipping" and you will see a mandate. 'cuz that's the other thing nobody is paying attention to - the Biden administration has been doing big, sweeping liberal shit that doesn't inflame any culture wars so the Right hasn't fucking noticed.

interesting times.