The Three Greats

The Great Lakes and Great Canadian North, over the course of history, have never been as efficiently serviced as they are today. This truth stems from the rise and growth of a third Great, however, this one be man-made.

The third Great is attributed to the Canadian ship-owner — the collective that has had to build and adapt a successful business model around a region of the world that not only challenges existence year after year with harsh, ever-changing climate and dreadful ice, but literally shuts down on an annual basis.

Since late 2008, vessels from around the world have been plagued with an overcapacity of freight offer that has in turn translated itself into dire freight rates. Despite these additional challenges, Canadian ship-owning leaders such as Fednav and Desgagnés continue to grow and adapt their respective service offer to this ever-changing part of the world.

Fednav has been delivering a higher standard in ocean shipping for over seven decades since 1944 and has been providing a direct continuous all water service to the Great Lakes trade since the opening of the seaway 57 years ago. Fednav have developed and fostered consistent growth to the Canadian and American heartland by literally connecting the Great Lakes to the world with ocean going vessels. Having developed the world’s largest fleet offering in maximized Seaway freight per sailing, they designed an entire market eco-system for their niche products and ephemeral trading patterns that so many shippers and carriers have learnt to embrace.

therer Another Canadian carrier, Desgagnés, have made the Great North their playground since the early 1960’s. A great deal can be said when you take some of the harshest shipping conditions on earth and somehow make it look easy. Their constant and significant investments over the years in a modern fleet boasting beautifully designed, multi-purpose vessels with cranes combining to 360 mt lifting capacity opened up an entire realm of possibilities to the Northern communities that were but a vision not 15 years ago.

Greatness is said to arise from the ability and eminence of being considerably above the norm; by having found a way to tame mother nature in what was once thought to be unsurmountable greatness, while making it seem so simple thanks to a constancy in ingenuity and resilience, a third Great needs to be crowned.

European Breakbulk shipowners leading the way

When the going gets tuff…Breakbulk ship owners get creative with amazing marketing campaigns!

For nearly a decade, from a creativity standpoint, our industry has completely transformed its image in so many awesome ways. Driven by the modern marketing visual approaches found in the many younger industries has instigated a double dose of ‘Marketing WOW’ while still maintaining a serious and open for business approach.

Long gone are the ultra-conservatism requirements to do business in the shipping industry that have indoctrinated the practice since the maritime industry’s inception as reportedly the second oldest profession in the world. Perhaps, it was its obvious need to distinguish itself from the first that brought it to this serious, don’t let your guard down, don’t let em see you sweat approach…

Irregardless of its cause, motivation or origin, European Breakbulk carriers have pioneered modern marketing initiatives over the last decade that have been nothing short of breathtaking and truly visually appealing. They have taught us that well crafted image campaigns of all sorts, combined to creative approaches that challenged the norm and the occasional surprise of guerilla marketing could bring a great deal of fun to an industry that direly required it; And this, while all the while maintaining a professional and first class approach to business, every step of the way.

They proved to us that you could let your hair down, be provocative and still be a fully fledged, seasoned pro.

Whom could ever forget:
-Attending one of the many breakbulk conferences, and after a usually harsh day of travel to get there, using BBC Chartering’s now famous hotel key card to get into your hotel room.


-Visiting Wagenborg’s website to be greeted by a video that combines visual and auditory passion through a storyline that finds a way to combine so many of their service offers in such a short period of time.


-Hansa Heavylift’s Discovery Channel like narration that take you to the sea’s edge in their servicing the many industries.

-Walking into a shipping conference, anywhere in the world, and losing all sense of a horizon in seeing Spliethoff’s booth, designed to be a massive and modern ship’s hull.


And whom hasn’t secretly desired a pair of those fancy Flinter Shoes?!


All of these companies, awesome in their own right; all making due with current market conditions, continue to weather the storm that has plagued our industry as of late and for far too long. Despite these bitter challenges, they have led the way in reshaping our industry by bringing some much needed appeal in so many creative approaches to state their version of a beacon that singles out attention to their trade. Theirs is one of the seas, currently harsher in dismal freight rates than virtually any storm they could bravely sail through to deliver on their promise.

To these and many other fine, marketing savvy leaders whom show us the way in having a positive, proactive approach of industry progress during these times, we salute you! Let us hope this modern approach shall quickly percolate throughout the rest of the industry and instigate the much needed growth to collectively push forward.

Blog post November 14th, 2016

On Friday, October 14th, 2016, Flinter’s management, having battled for years on end to survive from within a bleak, cutthroat market, received notice from their creditors that their day had come. The day they had collectively and honorably fought against; the day, they valiantly sacrificed as individuals for the common goal to survive the storm…
In vain, the storm simply lasted too long, and like several others in the unfortunate recent shipping years, the good folks at Flinter recognized their ill-chosen fate with grace. The world moves on; one less competitor and so be it. The good talented folks will find employment; talent always does, but how does this make things better?
On the short term, it doesn’t. If we permit ourselves to view a vessel as a mouth to feed on a daily basis from port to port, its management banner faltering simply enables a better credited vessel management team to increase their specific capacity, but market over capacity remains. In fact, it doesn’t change.
So why would a collective of so many bright and creative shipping leaders bring market over capacity upon themselves? It’s simple really, it’s because their individual perspectives and strategies are not geared to the collective goal of a successful market. Rather, the strategies chase the same prize, with similar insight, a personalized recipe and added freight capacity. The core issue lies in that the specific freight, albeit alluring, will only fill one mouth at a time leaving all the other mouths scrambling to find a replacement meal.

The core of the problem is that when excess capacity arises, it sails for 20-30 years; promptly returning to market balance becomes a bleak point on the horizon. `Hanging on`, in many instances, becomes the new corporate strategy.
The collective of great people at the former Flinter unfortunately demonstrated that despite amazing visual marketing, an often creative approach to booking freight, a positive attitude, a dedicated hard-working team united with a common goal, and so many other compliments that usually, under normal circumstances, make for a successful corporation, were simply, not enough.
The writing was on the wall for a lengthy period of time, but with a soft-spot for an unrelenting underdog resolved to overcome its fate, many of us wish they would have made it, if for nothing else, for the sheer grace they demonstrated throughout the process. So how do we learn from this? Its difficult really. Corporations are there to generate revenue and grow. Their objective, as specific entities, are perfectly legitimate and who needs additional regulation?! The market of supply and demand dictates the fate of these corporations and those of their customers. As long as our society remains motivated by these objectives as a collective, market imbalance shall govern whom gets their next meal and who has to lay idle.