Home' Ausmarine : March 2011 Contents My wife is an avid reader and when we travelled I used to end
up carrying a suitcase full of books which she would bring
home for her mother, another avid reader. The trouble was that
I was shrinking under such unnecessary heavy loads.
Spotting the Sony digital reader some four years ago, I
immediately bought a unit for my wife as the tiny electronic folder
could hold 300 books -- and I delighted in unburdening my travels.
She was very happy with the product and only two months
later she predicted an end to books and book stores. So when the
recent announcement came that the giant US book store Borders,
with subsidiaries worldwide, had filed for Bankruptcy, she was
quite smug about the accuracy of her prediction.
Listening to a talkback radio show, there was much murmuring
about why such a huge organisation such as Borders had collapsed.
One industry observer just bluntly stated that they had "failed to
adapt" to the changing world of electronic books and eBay buying.
What is it, I thought, that makes large companies so
complacent that they miss the "bleedin' obvious"?
As a Scot in the marine industry I am frequently asked why the
Scots, who ruled global shipbuilding for the best part of a century,
lost the lot?
Addressing the Scottish Maritime Transport conference recently,
I had to rethink all of the past excuses about the collapse of
Scottish shipbuilding, and of course it all was summed up in
"failure to adapt".
And it all started after the Second World War.
Sure, the Scots knew that the Japanese were building huge sheds
and floodable docks, compliments of post-war rebuilding money
from the United States.
Sure they knew their own workers still had to brave the cold
and wet climate in ships that stood high on the angled slipways.
Climbing over the scaffolding and into the bowels of the ship took
three times as long as for the Japanese, entering through access
holes on the ship's sides at shop floor level.
They knew the Japanese were spending huge amounts on
research and development into shipbuilding and accelerating
standards in welding techniques. Research into novel ship types
was also undertaken.
They knew the Koreans were coming on to the scene and
using the Japanese, not the Scots as the benchmark of
They knew the order books were drying up.
Still the Scots did nothing. They totally failed to adapt.
So who was at fault? Personally I think it was a combination of
the British Government for failing to provide incentive to invest in
infrastructure, the yard owners failing to re-invest, and the unions
who became belligerent about the symptoms and not the source.
All very well you might say, but you can't change history. But
surely we all can learn from history!
What can the maritime industry in Scotland do now? Like
anyone who has stumbled in life, you have to get up and focus on
what you have.
Scotland has good university research facilities well capable of
handling the brave new world of marine technologies. Nuclear
propulsion with newer fast reactors and renewable wastes for all
sizes of commercial vessels is an imminent must for a world serious
about tackling greenhouse gases. Even the Chinese have awakened
to that, with their giant Cosco shipping company proposing a
nuclear-powered container ship.
Sub-sea mining is another frontier that Scotland could well
tackle, with the majority of the planet under the water and people
just starting to realise its potential in mineral wealth.
Scotland has a couple of unused large undercover yards that,
with some serious investment, could match or surpass the best of
Scotland has hydro-electric power and good experienced labour
in the offshore oil sector.
Scotland has a significant ferry fleet that needs replacing, if only
someone can stand up to the union bullies and the lacklustre
bureaucrats who continue to lose millions of pounds every week in
running the marine version of Fawlty Towers. Will that happen
Can Scotland stand up to the petty tyrants of the EPA and
OH&S that continue to obstruct efforts of sustainable
Western governments generally have no stomach for hard
decisions and reality even when there is no more money in the till.
Scotland is well placed to once again be a serious player in the
marine industry, although the policies implemented today may
take ten or 20 years to bear fruit
Learn from other success stories:-
Build vessels of multiple repeat designs and chase the export
market. Have these vessels available in kit form, like Damen of The
Netherlands, so that prompt delivery is possible.
Put ferry management in place that actually does the job well.
Keep governments in the business of government -- they seldom do
that well, so why would you let them run ferries?
Challenge the clever marine people at Strathclyde University
and other research facilities to set the pace in sub-sea mining,
offshore transhipment and nuclear propulsion and anything else
that encapsulates the future.
So why would you think that I am writing this in an
Australian magazine and what's all this got to do with the
Australian marine industry?
Well the fact is that Australia blue-printed many UK policies
and procedures, including a vast array of petty bureaucracies and
over-regulation, that assisted in wheeling us over the cliff, losing
most of our manufacturing base to a seriously hungry Asia.
We failed to adapt.
Failure to adapt
With STUART BALLANTYNE
THE EDUCATION OF AN
March 2011 AUSMARINE
Links Archive February 2011 April 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page