The New Normal, or Who Knew?

Congratulations to Capital Link on the launch of the new website. I had written a group of articles in late 2019 and had asked Nicolas and Anny to archive them in preparation for the new site. Like everything else, that was then (BV- like “pre virus”, not like the shipping classification guys) and this is now (AV- like “after virus”). Purists will suggest that AV should really be DV (like “during virus”) but I am trying to be optimistic and stay ahead of the curve. But, those late 2019 articles- brilliant and insightful though they might have been, are only worthy of the scrapyard now- because the world has changed.

I do recall around late January 2020 when I was approached by the Board of the Connecticut Maritime Association (CMA)  to speak at an upcoming luncheon, set for a month later at end February, on the subject of ocean  freight markets. After thanking them profusely (it was quite an honor, actually), I begged off- citing my broken crystal ball as far as freight forecasting was concerned. After they asked me if I had any suggestions- on relevant topics and who might speak about them, I paused briefly, and- thinking about a small project I was finishing up at that time  regarding Chinese shipping, I said, “Here’s an idea- they are having an outbreak over in Asia, maybe it’s SARS returning…I don’t know…but I’ve heard that shipyards are starting to back up. How about a medical guy to talk about viruses and infections.” Anyway, one thing led to another and the CMA was able to arrange for a speaker tied to Future Care- which deals with medical issues for seafarers all over the globe.

By the end of February, 2020, at the time of the CMA lunchtime event- with everyone now talking about the virus (dare I say “the virus was in the air”?), I looked like a brilliant forecaster. Again, I take the compliments- and there were a few, but really all I can say is “Who knew?” And that’s the whole point- nobody did know. One quote I remember vividly from the lunch (where folks were still doing handshakes), came from the speaker, a Miami based doctor with extensive experience on epidemics in the maritime context, who said something like: “Countries with authoritarian styles of governing will be much more effective in dealing with outbreaks of this type.” Again, who knew?  A week later (first week of March now), I attended a lunch in downtown Manhattan- kind of maritime history stuff, at that point we were fist bumping (no more handshakes). A week after that- on the way to an evening gathering (a bunch of writing buddies discussing coverage of health care in the media), hand sanitizers were on my mind. On the way to the midtown event venue,  I stopped at a CVS- all the rubbing alcohol was gone. Once that happened, I knew (along with everyone else who cleared out the shelves prior to my arrival at the store) that things would never be the same again.

For Capital Link readers, that’s the powerful message, though I think an obvious one, to impart- things will be different. Capital Link, truly a “connector,” in every sense of the word, has taken big steps- “pivoting” from a cancelled late March physical shipping conference to a virtual gathering which, by all measures, was a big success. I would not go so far as to label this as “the new normal” but tele-everything, remote-everything and long-distance-everything, will seep into all activities and processes. The change-resistant maritime world will be dragged along. So get ready for the ride.

Again, it’s a great privilege to be part of the re-launching of Capital Link’s online presence. No forecasting for now (sorry contango and oil storage followers) but there will be a few along the way.