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The bigger the better and getting people talking about shipping

The bigger the better and getting people talking about shipping
I really have to report on a recent conversation at my 15-year-old daughter’s school. It went like this: Philippa: ‘My mother went on board the biggest container ship in the world.’ (the 19,100 teu CSCL Globe, at Felixstowe)

Philippa's friend: 'That isn't the biggest container ship in the world – the biggest is the MSC Oscar.' (19,224 teu, due at Felixstowe in March)

To be fair, I should explain not only that the friend's mother works for MSC, but that his name is actually Oscar. However, the important point is that shipping was being discussed at all, in a day-to-day school environment!

Big ships do attract attention and we should make the absolute most of the opportunity they give us to promote awareness of our industry. When the CSCL Globe called into Felixstowe, the local television news channels couldn't get enough of it.

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From my point of view, friends and neighbours in Suffolk, whose eyes generally glaze over when I get into "anorak" talking-about-shipping mode, were suddenly eager to ask about "the giant cargo ship". Many had even taken a trip down to Felixstowe or Shotley to get a good view.

Tim Clarke, outgoing chairman of Harwich Haven Authority told guests at the HHA annual board lunch: "For anyone who tried to get down to the [Felixstowe] viewpoint when the CSCL Globe was in, the road to Landguard Fort was absolutely packed. We have shone a light on our activity which normally we hide under a bushel. We are great at business-to-business but we don't do enough to get the message out there."

As with all news, the bigger and more dramatic and event is, the more likely it is to make the headlines. So while we all wish the public were more aware of the importance of shipping, and why it is so crucial to our economic wellbeing and day-to-day quality of life, perhaps we should avoid bogging them down in the detail.

I have only just caught up with another minor breakthrough in terms of mainstream media coverage of the logistics world. This time it was BBC One's peak-time The One Show, which presented a report about the extraordinary measures undertaken to allow the movement of massive offshore towheads on multi-axle trailers through the centre of the Scottish town of Wick, to Subsea 7's fabrication site at Wester.

Veteran reporter John Sergeant spent three days in Wick filming the movements of a 34-metre-long, 330-tonne towhead from Sinclair Bay to the site, and of another weighing about 180 tonnes from Wick harbour.

A massive, bright yellow unit squeezing through the streets and round incredibly tight corners with centimetres to spare made for great television. The fact that the report helped viewers to understand the detailed advance planning and the extraordinary skills of all involved, was a bonus.

So, too, was the fact that there were many shots of happy and interested onlookers gathered to watch this newsworthy performance!

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