The shipping bluesRead Now
Tom Powell - Climate Karanga Marlborough
Tom comes into the kitchen where Marg is at the table sorting the post.
Tom: “Did my Austin Healey arrive today?”
Marg: “A car? You’ve bought a car?”
Tom: “No, it’s a miniature replica. It should have arrived by now. I ordered it more than a month ago”.
Marg: “Oh, you mean a toy car. No, nothing came…”
Tom: “IT’S NOT A TOY! IT IS A COLLECTABLE!”
Marg: “Oh, sorry. So, where is it coming from?”
Tom: “It should be coming from the States. They said it would be here in two to three weeks. I’ve got the display cabinet all ready.”
Marg: “Well, you know shipping is all messed up at the moment due to Covid.”
Tom: “Bloody pandemic. First it’s lockdowns and now shipping delays and prices going up. It is all a big mess!”
Marg: “Well, don’t count on it getting better any time soon.”
Tom: “Why is that? Things should go back to normal once the world gets vaccinated and borders open up again.”
Marg: “Things will probably get worse in the years ahead. I’ve just been reading about the likely impacts of climate change on shipping. Stormier seas will make shipping more hazardous. Sea level rise will increase damage to ports during storms. Floods will damage factories and roads.”
Tom: “But we’ve always had storms. How bad can it get?”
Marg: “According to the experts, pretty bad. Add to that droughts and heat waves causing crop failures."
Google Assistant: “The heat wave in the western US last summer all but destroyed the berry crop in Oregon and Washington.”
Tom: “Thank you for butting in, Google! But Marg, that’s just food. Other things will still be produced.”
Marg: “Yes, but it will be hard to focus on those other things when people don’t have enough food to eat. Who is going to load the ships?”
Tom: “OK, so there will be more disruptions due to storms and crop failures. I can see where they could have an effect.”
Marg: “Add to that the growing tensions between the US, Australia and China. We could easily get caught up in a trade war. The Foreign Minister has already warned us about this. Have you noticed how much of our stuff comes from China? Your toy car was probably made in China and shipped...”
Tom: “MARG, IT IS NOT A TOY! I’VE TOLD YOU – IT IS A COLLECTABLE AND THEY ARE QUITE VALUABLE!”
Marg: “OK, sorry, calm down. It’s a collectable and I’m sure it is quite valuable.”
Tom: “OK, so we’ve got storms, crop failures and trade wars. What else could go wrong?”
Marg: “Well, then there is the question of just what kind of energy is going to power cargo ships. Ships today run on oil but the world is trying to eliminate fossil fuel. What are the cargo ships of tomorrow going to run on? Wind? Batteries? Batteries might work for short trips but not for crossing the oceans.”
Tom: “What about hydrogen or biofuels? There’s lots of research going on. Everyone at work says they are the fuels of the future.”
Marg: “I wouldn’t get your hopes up. We were all supposed to have flying cars by now, if you read the old science magazines.”
Google Assistant chimes in: “Green hydrogen, made by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity is inefficient and still relatively expensive. You get only about a quarter of energy used to make and transport green hydrogen back when you use it.”
Marg: “And Tom, biofuels are also a worry. How much of South East Asia do we want to turn into palm oil plantations to make bio-diesel? How much of New Zealand farm land do we want to convert from food production to fuel production? Food is surely more important than fuel!”
Tom: “OK. So, you are saying my budding miniature car collection is doomed. Thanks, darling. You’ve ruined my day.”
Marg: “Oh, I’m sorry sweetheart! Maybe we can find someone here who makes miniature car ‘collectables’. You know, with all these problems with international shipping on the horizon, we need to start making things here in New Zealand again. And we should be supporting our businesses by buying local.”
“Let’s check the internet.”
“HEY Google, are there any New Zealand companies making toy cars?”
Tom: “MARG! IT IS NOT A TOY!”
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These are a collection of opinion articles principally written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim. Some articles have been written by other CKM members, and their names appear with those articles.