Sunday 22nd Apr, 2018

THE SHIPPING LIFE: Spreading the wings

The Australian War Memorial in London’s Hyde Park. Photo: wallyg/Flickr
The Australian War Memorial in London’s Hyde Park. Photo: wallyg/Flickr

The field of shipping for me always covered a very wide field of associated interests. Much involvement came from participation in complicated shipments (as one example my earlier description of us carrying a whole container crane to replace the one that had collapsed by a typhoon in the then two-crane port of Keelung and the loss of which was threatening the Taiwan economy).

Others demanded a continuous and flexible space supply for large and vital Australian exports, which needed to depend on regularity and some priorities in space allocations. One of these was Ricegrowers of Leeton, NSW, who shipped some 100,000 tonnes of bagged rice annually to Hong Kong. It was essential for them to have a total commitment from their shipping line, and this was arranged early on through total professionalism from their shipping manager Donald McDonald.

Then the marketing side for both our services and our clients, in particular the Australian exporter and importer. We took this collaboration further by entering rally cars in the three Hong Kong – Beijing rallies from 1985 onwards together with the Hong Kong rice importers Lui Hing Hop, the cars painted in glorious colours promoting Aussie Rice to the Chinese masses. Other similar such exporters included e.g. John Lysaght’s steel, bagged malt for Manila’s San Miguel Beer, and many others.

Environmental spilloffs

Orient Shipping became as popular as “sliced bread” following our successes. Suddenly we had both French and US major shipping associates breathing down our necks. It was decided, wisely, for OOCL to open its own in-house Australian offices, but my responsibilities to our other principals prevented me from following. With my shipping career approaching its end following a complicated merger and sometimes unhappy takeover, I decided to retire after many decades of often non-stop work, and I found it hard to adjust.

Not attending to the shipping business (every day and many nights) gave me a bad conscience. But shipping had also opened the door for us, e.g. to look at new ships’ hull protections was one, and this lead me to the introduction of protective coatings against graffiti, a technology badly needed in Australia. So I became the exclusive importer for this product, set up a small company in Sydney and launched a graffiti protection service to Councils, schools and, most importantly, the NSW Railcorp, for whom we not only prevented and removed graffiti during several years but also created huge and beautifying murals, some 200m x 15 m in area, in the rail corridors.

Within a year we became the lead organisation in this field for Railcorp and we produced the management and application protocols for them, which I suppose are in force even today.  This technology even prompted me to offer a bid for the graffiti and pollution protection of the entire new Wembley Stadium in London in 2003, which we won in fierce competition with many UK and European firms. It supplemented the Australian involvement, since the whole stadium construction was by Multiplex of Sydney. It demanded several visits by me to Wembley, a suburb where outside the 2-1/2 star hotel one would be lucky to hear two words of English spoken by the populace.

Following the completion of Wembley we also got the first two years surface maintenance contract for it. A long way from shipping cranes to Taiwan! 

The UK diversion also got me a contract for the protection of the new Australian War Memorial in London’s Hyde Park, a stunningly beautiful 55 metre long construction by the Sydney architects Tonkin Zolaika Greer. It was opened by the Queen and PM John Howard in 2003. For the occasion we were also contracted by the Hyde Park people to clean up the whole park area prior to the opening, perhaps preferring Aussie reliability to their own?

Wave power

I was contacted by a Danish firm Waveplane International, who was experimenting with a waveplane technology for electricity generation, and I took on the Australian representation for it. It came to involve case studies in Scotland and Denmark, and I got much interest from the Lord Howe Island Council.

Our ships could possibly be used for the dropping off of the heavy units. We planned to anchor a unit northeast of the island, but funding fizzled, as often is the case when our multi-layer governments are asked to get involved in new fields of imaginative science.

Solar and wind water purification

Swiss company Trunz got me involved in this project, and it was widely thought to be known that clean water supplies were a major problem for Aboriginal health in Australia. I eventually got a meeting with the NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson, and a lot of research was underway to identify those places most in need.

It came as a total surprise that the Australian Outback and its indigenous and other population doesn’t suffer from a shortage of clean drinking water at all! Some is even used for exports. The one benefit here, however, was the killing of a myth.

Flood protection barriers

We came across a patented Swedish system of portable flood barriers which have been used in Europe for many years and allows for protection of up to 240 cm, of which, say a 100 m x 1.5 m barrier can be erected by four men in one hour. We acted as Australian Distributors for several years and the system became well known and used by e.g. the SES, Councils, Airports and commercial warehouses, one of which had suffered $18 million loss in the recent flood and decided to spend $1.6 million for 800 m x 2.40 m to prevent any repeat ever! Our product saved whole or part townships.

Regrettably, many authorities are unable to see further vision than the environmentally-damaging and ineffectual sandbags. I even got invited to visit Hanoi five times to lecture on this technology – a truly developing nation, Vietnam, it seems!

I also met with the South African government in Pretoria, where funding was a problem.

Show the world the Orient Shipping flag!

I had in my post-shipping “retirement” a strong urge to visit parts of the world which were not included on my “have been” list of some 105 countries at that time. And to promote our company and associates globally at the same time.

After my Antarctica Sailing Adventure I had no particular need to go near the ocean again soon. For some reason the thought of dipping my frostbitten toes into desert sand seemed reasonable. So, following on from the China Rallies, it struck me as a good idea to expand that experience globally and in Australia.

So I re-entered rally sport semi-seriously as a co-driver at a mature age of circa 56, old enough to be grandfather to the younger competitors. Co-drivers/Navigators have a hugely important role in competition. During recce of open rallies allowing pace-notes to be taken and tried the recce car drives if possible through each stage five-plus times, during which a complicated code is describing each track feature and calls out the shrinking distance to each one. Curves and corners are graded to a certain scale and difficulties coded separately. The notes are then tested and edited several times, until the team is happy with the final result.

I entered the Australian National Championships and we ended up as second and first places winner. We did the World Championship rounds in Australia (we won our production car Group N), Sweden (midwinter and ice at -35C), Finland’s “1000 Lakes” and New Zealand (5th Outright!).

At these international events it is particularly important to be accurate. A failure to make a correct call can be fatal at worst and cost you immense time loss at best, so there must be a total confidence and trust between driver and co-driver, more so when the car is driven on a dirt track at 200 km/h. There is a caution call for bumps sending you “Airborne”, a phenomenon when for a few seconds it seems one is totally engulfed in silence – until the wheels hit the dirt on landing.

We then took our business to long haul events, starting with London-Sydney in 1993 and with Australian 5-times champion Ross Dunkerton as my driver, following from our team work in China. The end of my old age career came as a factory co-driver for Mitsubishi Australia, when their two Group A entries came first and second in the Australian Championship.

I myself am no petrol-head and find reading about motorsport can be numbingly boring, so I will cut it here.

From the print edition September 7, 2017

* Captain Harry Mansson AM is a Master Mariner, a retired ship’s Captain, with a subsequent varied background as an international consultant to the United Nations/World Bank to a shipping management entrepreneur. He has enjoyed a stellar career at sea and onshore.

Starting with the Swedish Merchant Navy, he also served as an officer in the Swedish Royal Navy sweeping active mines. In 1972 he established Orient Shipping Services Pty Ltd as the general agent for the entry of the Orient Overseas Line (now OOCL) into the Asia/ Australia trade. In 1993 he was deservedly awarded the Order of Australia for services to shipping and international trade.

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