- Industry consolidation has yielded a half dozen shipping firms that ferry a majority of the world’s containers, reaping record profits from ocean freight’s best-ever quarter in the final three months of 2020, according to New York-based investment manager, Blue Alpha Capital.
These firms have driven out competitors helming smaller, more rundown ships. Struggling companies are often one delay or cancellation away from foundering. When debts pile up, or the cost of repairs becomes too high, some firms choose to abandon a ship or sell it for scrap.
Completing a sale can take years in normal times. Pandemic-era travel restrictions have made it even harder, creating barriers for buyers, bankers, inspectors or court officials to visit ships ahead of transactions.
When shipping companies run out of money, crew members often end up with nothing, except a derelict ship to squat on.
I didn't submit this at the time, but I definitely should have.
- The MV Aman was tilting 10 degrees, its 330-foot-long hull taking on more than 6 feet of water. Three miles from the nearest ship, Mr. Aisha knew that if the 3,000-ton boat went under, it would suck him, the only person on board, into the Red Sea.
This was a crisis. It was also Mr. Aisha’s best chance to escape.
For months, the 29-year-old Syrian had been the last sailor still living on a cargo ship, abandoned two years earlier near the mouth of the Suez Canal and being detained by the Egyptian government. They had refused to let him disembark but couldn’t keep him on the ship if it was sinking, he reasoned.
He activated an emergency beacon and shouted “Mayday! Mayday!” into the radio. Hours crawled by before a military patrol arrived to whisk him to land.
Ten days of interrogations in military and police stations later, Mr. Aisha was right back where he started, returned to a deserted ship whose hull had been repaired. It was Oct. 27, 2019, and he wasn’t going anywhere.