Like Bernie Madoff, don’t take holidays

During his summer break Mr Prospector came across a dusty old edition of Very Shipping Problems: A Guide To What Shipping Phrases Really Mean. Here he shares some of the most commonly used maritime terms.

It’s summer (unless you are reading this in the southern hemisphere, of course) and that means relentlessly talking about going on holiday, having been on holiday, or being told ‘he’s on holiday’ when you call anyone needing something to be done. Suddenly the industry is all talking to the stand-ins.

In my experience there are two types of holiday ‘stand in’. The first is the one who genuinely couldn’t care less about taking on extra work so never does a stroke and you long for your regular mate to get back from Marbella. The other type also couldn’t care less, but their indifference is about the person on holiday’s PnL. They book anything that moves, you can suggest anything at all and they ask if it’s firm and say ‘done – anything on the follow?’. Your trading volume with them suddenly trebles and every deal takes a tenth of the time as they don’t want to chit chat. When the regular guy comes back from holiday, everyone realises what a plodder he is and starts plotting literally any way possible to move them on and get the other person back in the seat. Moral of the story? Like Bernie Madoff, don’t take holidays.

Last week I had pause for brief holiday reflection as well (Clacton, so-so, sh*thole, before you ask). I remembered that some time ago, when literally nobody had ever heard of Mr Prospector, I wrote about finding a ‘Guide To Shipping Terms For Financial Investors’ on my still existing, but never updated website ( if you’re asking). If you do take a look, the ‘coming soon’ strap line is all relative really, with my version of ‘soon’ being ‘sometime between next week and the second coming’.

Splash have wisely told me that my ‘by the word’ payment will be limited to a much smaller number, but I should feel free to keep writing even after the meter has been stopped. So I needed a way to maximise content while minimising words. Therefore, would you believe this? I have found another guide to shipping terms when clearing out an old desk which is entitled Very Shipping Problems: A Guide To What Shipping Phrases Really Mean. And a right riveting read it is too. Here are some of my favourite phrases and terms that it laid out clearly for all to understand.

“Increasing our liquidity” – selling stuff as we keep losing money

“Adjusted our fleet” – taking a heavy loss

“Updating our business model” – trying something else as we keep losing money

“Efficiently matching cargoes to ships” – doing shipping

“Minimising ballast legs” – doing shipping

“Trading model” – the invisible man

“Strategy” – what the boss tells me to do

“Risk management model” – cupboard by the coffee machine

“Fill out our KYC form” – put anything down, nobody reads it

“OK for a single voyage” – they’re cheap, who cares who they are

“Solid track record” – nobody seems to know how many times they’ve f##ked up

“Our trading partners” – any company involved in shipping

“Major grain house client” – we fixed a 10-day voyage with Cargill in 2010

“Run some numbers” – phone down, feet up, open newspaper

“Annual trading volume” – random number

“Annual revenues” – made up number, add a nought

“Private Greek Owner” – ship is made of diamonds

“Needs board approval” – can’t make our minds up

“Collecting rates” – don’t know the market, hoping you don’t either

“I’ll pass at those levels” – I think I’ve done the calc wrong

“Sharp” – loss-making

“You’re the sharpest” – you’re going to lose the most

“Off market” – everyone knows

“PnC” – publish and circulate

“According to the Baltic” – justification of last resort

“I’ll check what paper’s doing” – I need an excuse to put my rates up/down

“It’s firming in the East/Gulf/Plate/PG/Clapham Common” – Please, please pay more

“What’s your view on the fundamentals?” – justify your commission

“Our analysts say” – I’m about to make something up so you pay more/sell cheaper

“Solid charterer” – they’ve never done anything specifically bad to me

“Good owner” – never reads the CP

“We just fixed . . .” – aren’t we great

“X is now fixed clean, thanks all for your support” – there are winners and there are losers, you know which you are

“Fronthaul” – expensive

“Backhaul” – freebie

And that neatly brings me up to my word count. From this sentence on I am working for nothing, so as a parting gift I will just tell you about the time that I


  1. Hit and miss.
    “Our trading partner” does usually mean anyone and actually non-existent company
    “Needs board approval” often is just a polite way to say that it is disapproved

  2. I was bunkers so not quite the same but “First class Anglo-Greek” seemed to be quite an elastic term

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