Dynasties of the Sea delves into the fascinating dichotomy of the ancient maritime industry – traditional, yet always moving, always changing – and meets the men and women of inspiration, courage and tenacity that are its leaders. Compiled from the interviews that spanned over many years, Lori Ann LaRocco’s book chronicles the careers thus far of the Viking King John Fredriksen – Norway’s answer to Donald Trump, except worth about $3 billion more – Greece’s Angeliki Frangou with her classy and played down Jackie Onassis style, Morten Arntzen of (recently bankrupted) OSG and stories of the high seas from Rajaish Bagpaee, the father of third party ship management, and many more.
Shipping is traditional. Back in the old days when PR didn’t exist, when the internet – even television – didn’t exist, a business only had its people. Shipping still maintains this ethos, while still having to embrace the modern status quo of how companies function in a modern economy and a modern world that is changing at faster and faster paces. Shipping is traditional. Yet it is built on the foundation of its people. People are the driving factor – from the deck boys who operate these sea-going vessels, to the principals themselves who decide where said vessels sail. Profits are key, but people come first.
Dynasties of the Sea – published by Marine Money who also produced the enchanting The Shipping Man – comes at a poignant time in the shipping cycle. Opinion may be divided about whether freight rates and vessel values can plummet further, but this book takes stock of the last four years of turmoil and also looks to the horizon. That change will come is indisputable – one of the few constants in shipping. But how, when and why the change will happen is very subjective. While these dynasties all have in common courage, humility, passion and an entrenched belief that crisis and opportunity are the same thing, they waver widely from each other in their risk aversion, whether they think the industry will consolidate and how they arrive at their impactful decisions.
The characters that have driven and will drive the maritime industry where it has been and where it is going, have developed into the stuff of legends. They are the contrarians and the rebels and the innovators of this world. The people who never followed a “typical” career course, who block out the buzz of general consensus, who make $650 million deals over lunch and who always have a spirit of adventure inside them. The people for whom their word is their bond.
Like shipping itself, these maritime titans keep an elusive profile. 90% of goods are transported across oceans and yet how much can the average person tell you about anything seaborne or salty? Likewise, these celebrities of dry cargo, containers, tankers and LNG eschew all the hallmarks of the Hollywood idols in the limelight.
Lori Ann LaRocco’s series of interviews with these shipping magnates – while concise, well presented and serving the none-too breezy subject of shipping finance into manageable (and at times) intriguing morsels – still left me unsatisfied. That the book exists is hugely important. That we know more about what makes these vital decision-makers tick is hugely important. And for those who work in more corporate and soulless industries, this book will (hopefully) be refreshing and enlightening – proving that no amount of knowledge learned in a classroom can ever replace cold, hard experience. Perhaps it was her incessant use of the word “headwinds” – an average of five times per chapter is just ridiculous – or the fact that Fredriksen, Troim and Stolt Nielsen are far too big to be distilled down into a few cursory quotations in between of ship finance trivia. Or maybe it says more about my own obsession with this mysterious world, that no matter how good a book is about it… I will always want more.