The first time I saw The Shipping Man it was lying on a shipbroker’s bed and I had only recently discovered what a shipbroker was. A beautiful turquoise cover of an oil-painted ocean topped with a lone vessel, I lay down and started to read. A chapter in and I knew shipping was my answer.
Robert Fairchild is your typical New York asset manager is guided into shipping completely by chance – exactly like myself. Days after typing “BDI” into his Blackberry by mistake, he is a shipowner. And days after that, he is a very poor man. Matthew McCleery takes us from the East Coast to Piraeus, from Hamburg to Oslo as Fairchild goes through the growing pains and learning curves of life as a shipowner.
Such a career, such an industry, such people I didn’t know existed. And yet shipping has been the most important industry for centuries. Secretive, hedonistic, always changing, indefinable and traditional, too: McCleery captures it all. The particulars of ship finance are covered lucidly and succinctly and woven into a gripping story of disaster, deals and business – with plenty of pleasure. It has stuff for the boys – jet skis, girls and gambling – and stuff to engross the girls – tall, dark, Norwegians, romance and independent women.
There may be typos and grammar mistakes and a dubious facts (buy high, sell low??) but who cares. This is the kind of novel that would persuade the next punter on the street to give a damn about ships and be able to tell his Afras from his Supras. Read The Shipping Man if you want some excitement, mystery and adventure. Read it if you want to learn a few shipping essentials. Read it if you are a newbie or salty veteran alike.
Ships eschew the jurisdiction of one nation – perhaps United States Jones Act vessels are a slight anomaly to this, but that’s a story for another time. A vessel can fly the Panamanian flag, be registered under a legal entity formed in the United Kingdom, have a technical manager from Norway, a crew from lord knows where else, while working the West African coast. Even the countries of their flag of choice are often unheard of or landlocked – Tuvalu, Pictairn Islands, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Liberia.
The maritime sector is ever moving, never predictable and always exciting. Everything the human race of the modern age depends on for survival is transported by sea. And yet, how little the average person knows about the maritime industry. And how little I knew before discovering a shipping man and The Shipping Man.
To read Chapter 1 of Marine Money president Matthew McCleery’s first novel, click here.