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Where does the term "barrel" of oil come from?

"Barrel" goes back to the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1859.  The only suitable storage containers in extistence at that time were 40 and 42 gallon wooden barrels. The 40 gallon barrel was used to store whiskey, while the 42 gallon model was used to store wine.  Standard Oil preferred the 42 gallon version.  Since they dominated the oil market at that stage, their preference became the standard.

Why are cargos usually quoted in metric-tons, while oil is priced in barrels?

When loading oil into a tanker - both the weight and volume of the oil must be taken into consideration.  While the ships are built to fit even large amounts of the lightest grades of crude oil into the tanks, there is still only so many tons you can load before the ship is in violation of governing rules.  The point being - you can't load a tanker until it's almost underwater.  The issue, of course, is that barrels are a volume measure while tons are a weight measure.  In order to convert one into the other, you need to know some specifics - most notably the temperature of the oil and the specific gravity.  Wamer oil will expand, and therefore weigh less per unit volume than will colder oil.  With that said - many cargos are referenced in barrels.  It's just a matter of "convention".

Why are the Greeks renowned shipping magnates?

The answer here depends on how far back you want to go, but about 2,500 years ago would be a decent place to start.  The Mediterranean was active in water trade - mainly in terms of river craft and regional/coastal transport.  The original center of the maritime and trading world had been Lebanon, but commercial acitivity eventually drifted westward (Stopford's "Maritime Economics" has a brilliant chapter on "The Global Pattern of Maritime Trade"). As trade began its early drift in this direction, Greece's location in the Mediterranean provided it with a central position between other trading nations.  The country's mountainous landscape presented limited agricultural opportunities.  With a vast coastline and countless natural harbors and inlets - Greece's geographical attributes allowed the nation develop its maritime personality.  The shipping mindset stayed with the Greek's over the next two thousand years or so, allowing them continued prominence in the world of ocean transport.  The post World War II era represented a point in history when the Greek's cemented their position as "Captains of Industry".  When the US government sold of most their "Liberty Ship" fleet, it was the Greeks who were buying, one of which was Ari Onassis.  Essentially, the spirit of Greek shipping has been intact throughout the history ocean trade.  For a much more detailed answer to this question, the following link is quite helpful:  http://www.greece.org/poseidon/work/articles/polemis_one.html.

Was the Exxon Valdez the world's largest oil spill?

No, not even close, but it was one of the world's more notorious spills.  The amount of oil spilled from the Valdez was about 37,000 tons - placing it about 30th on the list of shipping oil spills.  The largest shipping spill occurred in 1979 off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago, when the Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain collided.  That resulted in about 280,000 tons of oil being spilled into the water.  A good source for oil spill info can be found here:  http://www.cedre.fr/index_gb.html

Is it true that when you were a cadet you sailed on an Exxon tanker with the third mate who ran the vessel aground?

Yes.  In 1987, two years before the Valdez ran aground, I sailed as a cadet on the Exxon New Orleans, running from Valdez down to San Fransisco.  Greg Cousins had just been promoted from able-seaman to third mate.  Nice enough fellow. I did not know Captain Joe Hazelwood though.  The vast majority of people within the shipping world who did know Captain Hazelwood considered him an extremely able Master Mariner, one who ran into quite terrible circumstances.  I know the perception in the outside world is much different.

Who is George Glass?

Jan Brady's fictional boyfriend.  She was insecure, about pretty much everything, and needed to show her brothers and sisters that she was indeed hip, cool and all other equated with the far-out 70s.  She really liked a boy named Clark Tyson, but felt that her truly groovy sister Marcia was going to get Clark's attention.  In order not to be less-swell than the ever nifty Marcia, she created a fictional boyfriend named George Glass.

You writing style is a lot like that of PJ O'Rourke's?  Is that on purpose?

His writing style made an impression on me many years ago, so that is how I tend to write.  He can take mundane topics and insert some energy into them just by employing sub references and a large dose of sarcasm.  I have a very long way to go before I would say it's comparable to his material, but my style has really gone down that avenue.

Who were your other influences?

The Wall St Journal editorial staff, Mark Steyn, Thomas Sowell, Hondo from the NY Post, Eric Briendel, Ayn Rand, Mark Bowden, Dean Barnett, the guys at Poweriline blog, Glenn Reynolds, The Economist.  They have not so much influenced my wordlview, as much as how to deliver it.  If you read my reports and read this blog, you will note a style similar to Dean Barnett's when he still wrote for his own blog, "soxblog".  If people don't enjoy reading what you write - then there is really no point in writing it.  More than that, if it's not fun writing something - then the lack of interest will show through - and no one will be energized to read what you have done. 

Where did you get the idea for this blog?

Eight years ago, when I was a chemical tanker broker working for Jim Weinberg at Safe Harbour - I put together a website geared towards updated info on the maritime sector.  The problem was that there was not a lot of dynamic info available, and further, what was available to me - was limited - since I was stuck in the chemical sector.  All I could do was link to the Tradewinds page, or some other shipping news site.  I have always felt that there was a specialized market for this, but don't think the audience was large enough until now.  Johnny K did a lot for raising the profile of the shipping world.  His Maritime Wired and Shipping Babe sites were brilliant, really.  I think, though, they lacked the capacity for dynamic content.  He is a creative guy, but the sites weren't able to offer continuous updates.  That's the main difference between blogs and websites.  Blogs are designed to be updated regularly - which keeps viewers coming back to see the new content.

So you have had this idea for eight years?

Not really.  The specifics of this idea came to me from John Sullivan at Argus Research.  He had mentioned his experience in the media world with people like Jim Cramer and Lawrence Kudlow (the ultimate happy capitalist).  I called him for advise on how to get the Imarex name, and the world of FFAs, further into depths of Wall St.  He mentioned many ideas, all of them good - and then mentioned he had his blog (www.johnsullivanbrigade.com) for his music interests.  When I put down the phone, I realized this might be the way to go.

So what will differentiate your blog from Shipping Babes and Maritime Wired?

Well - hopefully we can provide as much humor as Johnny K provided there.  But on top of that, I think that dynamic content is the key.  Powerline, for example, has three consistent authors.  They provide fresh content - and often add - and maybe disagree with - items that the other guy might post.  Instapundit has multiple contributors.  I think that within the Imarex day-to-day shipping community in Oslo, Singapore and Houston, we can give the market what they want.  It's also important not to "over blog".  I always felt Michelle Malkin, for example, over blogged - with too much content.  It's a fine line. 

What is the end game?

A great question that I don't have the answer to.  You don't always know were an idea is headed, but you know you have to get "on the train" and find out.  You do know that it rarely goes where you think it will go, and you also know the only way to find out is to pay for your ticket and climb aboard.  Bette Nesmith, the mother of wool-capped Monkee Michael, came up with the idea for Liquid Paper (called "Mistake Out" at that time) as she was painting holiday windows at the bank.  Look where it led to.  The end game - I don't know.  I only know that getting on the train is better than not getting on the train.

Why do you think John Elway was better than Joe Montana?

I think reasonable people can disagree on this topic - but, Elway was losing Super Bowl's with absolutley no talent around him, while Montana was winning them with a team full all-stars. Off the top of my head, I can name Jerry Rice, Matt Millen, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott, Tom Rathman, Dana Stubblefield, Ray Wersching.  For Elway's early years - I can name Gerald Wilhite - and I think Rich Karlis may have been the kicker.  I don't even recall if Rick Upchurch or any of the late 1970's players were still on the team.  I think if you put Elway in San Fran - he wins as many, if not more, Super Bowls, than Montana.  Remember - Elway could run.  How many times did Elway ruin your day by scrambling for 9 yards on 3rd and 8?  Anyway - that's my personal opinion.  I have no problem with those who think Montana is the man, especially after Joe's Saturday Night Live skits.

Did you ever write letters to Penthouse Forum?

No, but I have been asked that before.  I would have to imagine that it can't be all that hard to do, provided you follows a basic template.  Your opening sentence always need to be "I never thought I would actually be writing into Forum, but what happened to me the other day was to good to keep to myself".  Pretty basic, right?  Then you spend a few sentences lying about how great you are at your job and are "not unattractive"- but that somehow you are mysterioulsy underappreciated by the opposite sex.  That is when you either introduce how you have been down on your luck recently - or, how the cute coed across the hall is down on her luck.  Remember, if someone isn't down on his/her luck - they won't print the story.  You then open the "hot" paragraph along the following lines, "Just as I opened my 9th beer and turned on the ball game, a knock came at my door.  It was <<insert name of cute coed here>>.  Boy was I surprised!  It turns out that she had locked herself out of her appartment - and her boyfriend, who she had been having trouble with, refused to drive over with his spare key." <<cue bass guitar>>.  From there, you only need to make up continual lies about various appendages and how long it actually took events to play out.  Keep in mind though, competition to get printed is keen.  Think of all the wild erotic tales your friends have told over the years - and think of how many of them that you know werent even close to true. 

Do you think Johnny Van Zant is comparable to his brother Ronnie?

In terms of voice - sure, Johnny can sing well enough to cover their style.  Beyond that, though - I have seen Skynyrd in concert a few times recently - and was a bit disappointed with Johnny.  He always feels the need to provide some visual activity to complement his singing, and I think this takes away from their music.  It's a petty criticism, I know, but - Ronnie was also much more than just their lead singer.  Ronnie had the cajones.  He kept these whiskey drinking kids in line, for the most part.  He wrote so much of their music - and gave them that "edge" that made them what they were.  If you like Skynyrd, my favorite albums are Pronounced and Second Helping.  Raw, but brilliant.

Was Skynyrd better than the Allmans?

This would come down to personal preference - though I dont see how the Allman's wouldnt get the nod here.  Skynyrd lent itself a bit towards to the "pop" side of southern rock, while the Allmans mostly stuck with that Duane/Greg/Dickie rare combination of southern country blues.  When the Allmans had it going on, with songs like "One Way Out", "Statesboro Blues" and "Done Somebody Wrong" - they really had few peers.  

My friend wants to bet a parlay with his bookie.  Should he do it?

Probably not.  Remember, anything the bookie lets you do is likely to lead to a loss.  Think about the "teaser" bet ( a bet where the bookie gives you an additional 6 points on each of two games, but you have to cover both games in order to win).  You will note the bookie allows you to "buy" the teaser from him - but he won't allow you to sell him the same bet.  Anyway - the parlay depends on what odds the bookie is giving you.  When you bet the parlay - you must win both games, though instead of getting additional points (like the teaser allows for), you get an increased payout.  Let's do the math - and assume you have to win two consecutive coin tosses to collect, or else you lose your money.  The outcomes are HH, HT, TH, TT.  We'll say you call for HH.  You therefore own 1 out of the 4 outcomes, while the bookie owns 3 of them.  He needs to compensate you for the the fact that his odds are much better than yours.  If you are offered 13 to 5 odds, this means he will pay your $13 if you win, and you pay only $5 if you lose.  The problem is that he will win, on average, 3 times for every time you win once. Ergo, he will win $15 (3 wins x $5 per win), while you only collect your one time winnings of $13.  You will lose, on average, $2 each time this plays out.  So unless you get 3 to 1 odds (ie 15 to 5), or unless you need juiced returns in order to pay your rent, avoid the teaser.