Episode 2: Sal Mercogliano
In this episode of "Maritime Means...", Blythe is joined by Sal Mercogliano. Sal is a former merchant mariner and firefighter, and current chair of the Department of History, Criminal Justice, and Political Science at Campbell University in North Carolina. He is also a maritime historian, faculty athletic rep, and the host of “What is Going on With Shipping?” on YouTube. Today, Blythe and Sal will talk about how to understand different maritime jobs, the history of marine disasters, environmental aspects of the industry, and the history of the world of shipping.Listen now (01:03:32)
Full episode transcript
- One of the more fascinating parts of the global supply chain is maritime history and how ancient laws and regulations affect us all today. There is a perfect guest that we have on for today's show and his name is Sal Mercogliano. He is a former merchant mariner, firefighter and current chair of the department of History, Criminal Justice and Political Science at Campbell University, welcome in Sal.
- Thank you, Blythe. It's great to be with you.
Sal started as a merchant mariner. He went to New York State Maritime Academy and got the shore and sea experience, but eventually decided to do something different. He focused on the history of his profession because he thought it wasn’t well written. This eventually got him a master’s in maritime history and nautical archaeology.
- Absolutely, now for folks who, so for this episode and for folks who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you give us a little bit of back story on how you came to work in the maritime historical section of, I guess this industry?
- Yeah, so it's, I started off as a merchant mariner so I worked three years sailing ships. So I went to New York State Maritime Academy, then went ashore after sailing for three years, worked for the navy ashore for four years chartering merchant ships. So I got that shore and sea experience. I decided I want to do something a little different.
So I went into the history area. I wanted to do the history of my profession because I didn't think it was very well written. So I delved into that, went off, got a masters in maritime history and nautical archaeology at East Carolina. So those people who go underwater diving on wrecks, that's what I did for a few years, then off to a PhD at Alabama and military naval history.
And since then I've become, as you said, a full time professor teaching maritime history but I also teach maritime policy, maritime security and then I get to be a contributor to some maritime outlets gCaptain and FreightWaves on a consistent basis.
- This is the podcast for Maritime Means, a podcast by Spire Maritime, helping to build a community of innovators. And for this talk I really wanted to focus on, it's so vast, there's so much to it. But for this specific episode, I wanted to sort of talk about the four key topics within the maritime industry, as sort of a crash course in history and you are really just the perfect person to have this conversation with. So I tried my best to whittle it down to these four key topics.
Sal’s been making videos on his YouTube channel talking about what’s going on with the shipping industry for over a year. One of the things he tried to highlight was the role of merchant mariners. Many people have heard the term but do not know what it means.
- And so topic number one, let's talk about merchant mariners. Now present day there is sort of a lot of conflict and, and challenge and staffing issues with that position, or with that role. But can you break down if this, the current challenges that we're facing today and if this has always been an issue with staffing merchant mariners for the global shipping industry?
- Sure. So you know, I've been doing a Youtube channel: ‘What's going on with shipping’ now for over a year. And one of the consistent things I've tried to do is highlight the role of what merchant mariners do? And one of the first things is what, what our merchant mariners? It's really the big misnomer. A lot of people have heard the term, they'll know somebody related to it, but I don't know exactly what it is. And basically there's about 1.8 million mariners who manned vessels, crew vessels around the world and do a large part of our international commerce and trade. And these mariners come from all around the world. We of course, American merchant mariners, but you have Filipino and Chinese and Indian, Indonesians and Ukrainians and Russians.
And what they do is they seek jobs and professions working on ships. Usually contracts for a set period of time. They'll go get their own training. They usually get educated either through a maritime academy or school to get their training certificate. Or they work their way up through the ranks, it's called going through the hose pipe, uh that's the place where the chain goes down with the anchor. So you talk about coming up through the hardest way to get onto a ship, that's the way. And so these Mariners will be educated that way and then they go get jobs with companies and different endeavors to go do it.
And over the past two years since Covid, it's been extremely tough for merchant mariners. It's been really difficult. Largely when you, go on board a ship, you sail on board for a set voyage or a set period of time. So maybe you sign on a ship in San Francisco and you're gonna get off when that ship comes back to San Francisco or you sign on for 2-4 months on a vessel. But Covid just turned that on its head. Crew members couldn't get on, they couldn't get off. They were unable to get reliefs. And what that did is put a big attrition on the world's merchant mariners, about 400,000 mariners at the height of Covid were trapped on board their vessels. They were over their allotted time period. And what that meant was, that their reliefs weren't coming out and they weren't getting off and in some cases those release, we're not going to come back out because they just had to go get different jobs and then the mariners who are, who are on board couldn't get off and then when they finally got off like I'm not going back and so you had a big turnover right now. I've got friends right now on a merchant ship. On a ship called the President Wilson, it's a US flag vessel. It's stuck in Shanghai because of the lockdown in Shanghai. They pulled in there back in March and then all of a sudden in March, the shipyard workers walked off and they haven't come back yet and they're just starting to come back now in May. And that puts them in a very difficult position. They're stuck in the shipyard and they can't get out. So it's a great job because you get to do a lot of things, go to a lot of places, see a lot of things, but it's a very work intense job. You work every day of the week. Every day is monday, it's groundhog day, the same day over and over again. You just keep doing it and when you do it for too long of a period it can cause you did not want to go back and do it again.
- How is that relative, I guess to the historical, I guess record of that job? Has it always been contract work where every day is a monday or was it a little bit more lenient to what the job standards are today? Give us a little bit of that perspective.
- It was worse. I mean, it's much better today than it was. So, you know, when you sign, when I signed onto a ship, you signed these articles, these articles of sailing. And you know, when I remember signing the articles that included how much meat I'd get per day in ounces. Which sounds crazy. But that was because of past work environments where you weren't fed on a good basis or you weren't given allotments of money so that you can go ashore when you, when you get ashore. And, you know, even in the United States, as late as the 1890s, there was a Supreme Court case that ruled that merchant mariners when they signed onto a vessel surrendered the 13th Amendment Rights towards slavery because they they consciously signed into an agreement and therefore they gave up servitude to sail on a vessel. And that's been historically true throughout history, mariners, you know, when they sign on, they fall under a master or ship's captain and they're basically really at their mercy in many ways. And it's a, you know, it was a life that had reward to it because you got paid pretty well, but it was also a job where you were gone for long periods of time. And you actually could lose your life. One of the things that mariners would sign on for were ventures. These ventures, you know, sign on the ship, maybe you get paid, maybe you get a portion of the profits from the cargo. And if you come back from that venture successfully, you're an adventurer. And now you, you know, you made profit from it or you may have lost all your money on it. So it was always a hit or miss.
- And so with that role, what I guess are the benefits of being a merchant mariner today? What kind of, I guess recruiting is or recruiting benefits or are being offered to you? Do you have a general idea of how, I guess, sort of the staffing challenges are being solved?
- Sure. So, I mean, for a lot of mariners, whether it's American or you know, again, you look at the top merchant mariners from around the world: Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians, Ukrainians, Chinese, they get well paid for their job for the area they live in. So, you know, if you're Filipino, you're making a lot of money plus you're getting, you know, all your food provided to you. You know, you don't have rent. You know, when you're on the ship for 4 to 6 months and so you can make a good amount of money, go back home, be off for several months and then come back out again and do it. So you're well paid. It's a very labor intensive job. It's very technical oriented. So whether you're an engineer, if you're working on the deck side, you have to be pretty well skilled. It's not just pure physical work, but there's a lot of you know mentality associated with it. So you know you have to work your way up and there's, it's a meritocracy, you can move yourself up. You know, you have to pass license exams to get to the next level. So it's always that kind of element that literally anybody can move up to be in charge. You just have to put the time and effort and studies in to get it. So, it has that kind of recruitment to it. Plus you have the opportunity to travel everywhere. You know, I've been on six of seven continents that I never would have gotten too if I didn't have that career.
Crews are split between three areas: the deck, steward, and engine sides. Each of them has unique responsibilities. All three must work perfectly to ensure the ship is running as it should. When things don’t work perfectly, you must be prepared.
- What does a typical day look like out at sea? You mentioned that it's most physical and mental labor, but I guess what are the job responsibilities of what you're expected to do when you wake up in the morning?
- Sure. So I mean you basically have three areas as a crew member on board, you're either on the deck side, the engine inside or the steward side. So stewards are doing food and making meals and so every day that's it, which I would argue is one of the most important jobs on the ship. Let me be clear because you can do a job that's not paying well but if the food is good you're fine. You know, you can, you can get by. When you're not getting paid well and the food is terrible, and you have no other choice to eat, that's a terrible thing. On the engine side, you're down in the engine room, you're down in the engine room, you're working maintenance, you're doing repairs. It's not like just watching your engine run, you always gotta be continually updating and maintaining and when something breaks or something happens, you gotta be able to fix it or else, you know, there's no tow truck coming to get you in the middle of the ocean. Gotta be able to fix it on the deck side. You're navigating from point A to point B. You're trying not to run into anything, but there's also work on deck in the cargo. And so a lot of it is, I would almost say 99% routine doesn't change too much. You go through it, it's the 1%, it's that one little variable of something going wrong, that you got to be worried about. You miss your turn and now you're grounded outside of Baltimore. Are you or are you going too fast in the canal and then you block world trade for six days. You know, it's very thin margins. For it, everything has to work perfectly. And when things don't work perfectly, you gotta be prepared for it. If you're not prepared for it, you make the news or you wind up on my youtube show.
History of accidents
Sal talks about a yearly report that reviews accidents and ship disasters. The remarkable thing is how these issues have decreased over time. It has gone down by as much as 50% over the past 10 years. You may see it highlighted, but the data shows that ships have gotten safer nowadays.
- And that was gonna be a good segue into my next topic. Because I want to talk about all of the different ships that you know, sort of, what does the ship market look like? And you mentioned a couple of the disasters because on your channel you had said that you've become the face of maritime disasters. Which I thought was hilarious. But you mentioned a couple with the, you know, the Ever Given and the Ever Forward. I believe that both, you know, sort of had ran into some issues for lack of a better phrase and blocking and preventing trade from happening. How often I guess throughout history do these big ships crash and or prevent, you know, I guess fulfilling their ultimate duties? Is this a regular thing or is it just something that has happened to one particular company more so than everybody else?
- Allianz just came out with a report where they do a yearly kind of year in review of accidents and ship disasters. And one of the interesting things they came up with is how much ship disasters have decreased over time. I mean it's actually pretty remarkable that over the past 10 years they've gone down 50% in the number of ship losses and catastrophes that have happened. Shipping got much safer, believe it or not, it really has. I know we see it a lot in the news, but I think that has a lot more to do with the fact that we see everything today better than you could have in the past. You know, you don't have the instantaneous communication that we have today with videos and an ability to do that. Ships are much safer. They're definitely much safer. We see that in the oil business, we see that with bulk cargo, we see with container cargo. People tend to forget how much more stuff we moved today than we've moved in the past just, you know, quick example, 1950, you move a half a billion tons of cargo on the world's oceans. Last year we probably moved, estimated 11 billion tons of cargo. And we do it pretty seamlessly. We really do. I mean, there are accidents and again, Ever Given is probably the classic one, which, you know, here's the ship going through the Suez Canal, goes sideways in the canal. But even that incident would argue in six days, it was clear. I mean, and I was one of them. I don't know if this gets cleared fast enough, but it did. And all of a sudden you were able to get cargo flowing again. And the thing about shipping always is: shipping will fix itself. They will find a way, I mean, there was literally ships piling up at the north and south end of the Suez Canal and within a day or two ships are going to sit there and say, all right, we're diverting, we're going around Africa, we're just gonna have to go a long way. Because this way is blocked and and you know, shipping technology has become much more sophisticated over time. At the same time, I would argue there's a lot of things that are still old fashioned, there is still a human being steering a vessel with a well, I mean, there's literally, I mean whether it's a rudder in the days of sail or a human being navigating through the Suez Canal, we still have those same elements. Yeah, it's different in the technology involved, but a lot of the concepts are still the same. We still navigate by the stars, except the stars we use now are artificial stars put up in the sky in a GPS constellation versus Arcturus and Sirius and Cappella. You know, we do it the same exact way. And I think that's one of the interesting natures, we're still moving cargo. We're still moving the same things that we've moved in the past were just moving a lot more of it and a lot faster than ever before.
- When you talk about, you know, the different ships and how it's, you know, 50% safer now than it was, you know, in previous years. What is that, how is that comparative to, sort of the growth in the big boats and or the smaller vessels? What, how are these big shipping companies sort of, I guess prioritizing, is it the big ships? Is it the little ships? Is it kind of a combination of the two? Where does the strategy lie in those different vessel types?
- You know, as I said in one of my videos, I like big ships and I cannot lie because I really, they're just amazing to me, they're just the technology involved in creating the largest structure ever moved by humans is amazing to me. It just is, I just, I, I geek out on it like nothing else. And one of the things that we've seen is we're continually pushing the edge of the envelope in terms of vessel size and vessel capability. And one of the interesting things, if you look at the different sectors in the maritime industry, if you look at tankers, for example, the ability to move tankers and oil and petroleum. One of the things that's really important about that is: ships got really big. They got really large and ironically, one of the reasons they got so large is because the Suez Canal closed in the 1960s and 70s for a long period of time. And so one of the things that they did is they wanted to basically be able to haul that goods in different ways. And so they built the ships longer, larger, wider, deeper and they carry more stuff. But one of the things that happened in the tanker industry was they realized that these huge monster ships, we’re talking ships, 300 - 400,000 tons, were maybe too big. They couldn't get in the ports anymore. And the infrastructure was too hard to handle them. So now they've kind of decreased the size of vessels. We've seen the container ships, container ships are getting bigger, getting larger. We're on, we're on the big side of container ships right now, do they get smaller in the future? Maybe so, maybe that's gonna be. And in fact, if we look at the vessels that are being built right now, yeah, we're building the big monster ships. These 24000-25000 box ships. But we're also building ships that can go through the Suez and Panama Canal. We're building ships right in that kind of Goldilocks zone. The medium size is what you're seeing. The passenger ship trade, look at the size of the monster passenger ships out there, you can get 6 to 7000 passengers on them. Are those gonna be the ones everybody wants to go on to post Covid? You know, do you really want to be on the ship with 6 to 7000 or maybe does the 2 to 3000 person ship feel better fit for you as going forward. So we're always constantly adjusting on size of vessels. And what's the right zone for a vessel to be in?
- How does that happen? Where you build a ship that is so large that a port can not take it in? How, I guess it's sort of just mind boggling to me that a ship would arrive in a port. What did that process look like, that they said, oh well, we should've probably checked with the port to see if they could accommodate a ship of our size.
- They especially like the oil tankers. They were designed to go to these offshore facilities. So they wouldn't even come into port, they would go to an offshore facility. They would load up with oil and then go to another facility and then pump that oil ashore through these offshore facilities. But we saw that with the building of the container ships, when companies like Maersk in 2006 introduced the MMR Score in 2013, they introduced the Triple E’s, the next generation. A lot of ports they couldn't get into. And so the ports had to decide if you want to accommodate these vessels, we have to do something with it. Dredge the harbor. We have to. If you're the port of New York and New Jersey, we have to raise the Bayonne Bridge because you can't get underneath it. So we're gonna spend $1.7 billion of taxpayer money to raise a bridge so that we can get a ship underneath it. And so you know, you have to accommodate that. And a lot of what we're seeing today in current supply chain issues is that the issue is not the ships, I would argue at all in the supply chain, we've got plenty of ships. We're moving containers across the ocean without a problem. The problem is getting them out of places and offloading them in places and then getting them out of the ports. And this is another element that is really important is that we don't live on ships. Ships are conduits for how we live on land and if the land isn't suitable or accommodating of the vessels, then you can build the biggest ship, small ship, it doesn't matter. If you can't get them in and you can't get the cargo off of it, it does you no good. You know, if you bring in the ship 24,000 boxes into LA, which they don't come. The big ships don't come to LA and Long Beach for this reason. Because LA and Long Beach can't accommodate them. They can't handle ships that size. They go for more of the medium sized vessels.
Maersk and their Triple E ships - energy, efficiency, and economy - were touted as the most environmentally efficient way to move cargo. Sailing ships are the greenest ships in the world. Recently, one of the biggest things in the maritime industry is the big push towards decarbonization over the next 30 years.
- What about I guess the environmental aspects of…Is a bigger ship, more environmentally friendly versus a smaller ship? I imagine, you know, there's also some waiting time in order to be unloaded. And what is sort of the environmental aspect of this argument of the bigger versus the smaller medium size ship.
- When Mearsk introduced those ships, Triple E’s, which are really the mark of the big ships, the big container ships, they call them the Triple E’s because of energy, efficiency and economy. And so, you know, one of the things they were touting was the fact that listen, per ton, this is the most environmentally efficient way to move cargo. They were, you know, the amount of carbon dioxide coming out of the vessels per ton was more efficient than aircraft, than trucks, than cars, than any other way they can do it. And so they were talking about the fact we're just dropping grams of pollution in the air per ton. The problem you had was the vessels were so large that there were 200,000 tons, that in a concentrated area, it was a massive amount of pollution, but over the weight of the vessel and the cargo, it's much more efficient. And you know, that's one of the things that shipping has done over time, it has been efficient. I mean, sailing ships are the greenest ships in the world. I mean, there's, if you think about it, the way we move goods historically by sailing has been the most efficient way we're doing and there's actually a push right now to move some cargo by sailing ways. It was just an announcement of a coffee company that's using a pure sail vessel to move its coffee and talk about the fact that it's emission free in growing the coffee to transportation to the final destination. And one of the things that we've seen in the maritime industry recently is this big push toward decarbonization over the next 30 years. Up to 2050 there's a push to decarbonize the entire industry, you know, right now IMO has set the goal at 50% reduction in carbon. But I'm not gonna be surprised to see that go a little bit further. And one of the things that the maritime industry has always been is being on the forefront of technology and in this case propulsion technology, fuel technology, how we move cargo and people around the world, that's going to be something that other industries will look toward.
- What about a couple, you know, sort of historical nuggets about when shipping wasn't so safe. Is there a famous shipwreck that comes to mind or maybe a pirate heist or something like that, that you know, and that's in the back of your Professor Brain?
- The rules, you know, the law of the sea is a really interesting topic because you know, once you get outside of territorial waters of nations, we today have a UN Convention, the UN Convention on the Law of the sea, which identifies basically territorial waters being 12 miles out. Beyond 12 miles out, it's kind of the wild wild west. It's the outlaw sea and that's a concept that comes all the way back from the age of sail. You know when guys like Sir Francis Drake is sent out by Queen Elizabeth to go raid the Spanish colonies in the New World. You know she basically tells, I can't control you outside of English waters. What you do outside of English waters is not in my control. You do whatever you want to do. And so you basically legalize piracy. The sea dogs go out and you know Drake will do the most famous attack in history. He circumnavigates the globe. Second person to do it behind Magellan goes around the world lands in California, understand in 1577 he lands in California. This is years, 50 years, before the pilgrims come to America. That's because Drake is raiding the Spanish main, he's going around South America. He sails across the Pacific on the Golden Hind, which you can see in England, you go see the replica of the Golden Hind there. It's an amazing endeavor, it's a huge venture when, and then I go back to the issue of ventures, when Magellan, who predates Drake, takes five ships, 250 men, set sail around the world and his objective, his sole objective is to get pepper. I always talk to my students like the age of exploration was fueled by a condiment that we give away today for free. But back in the day, pepper was the most sought after drug in human history, it really was because today, if you go to a store and you go to Mcdonald's or any fast food place, they give you pepper in your bag and you just throw it away. Back then that would be like crack and maybe like that expensive in those little bags you can sell it. And Magellan goes off on this voyage, he loses four ships, four out of five, he comes back with just 20 crew members out of 250. He doesn't make it back. He dies, he dies in the Philippines. Yet those crew that came back was the most profitable venture in all of human history because they loaded up with a shipload of pepper in the Molucca Islands in South East Asia and they came back and they saw it was like, wow, this is great, we gotta do this more, this is profitable. And so there are ventures out there that have these fruits for return. But on the flip side, they can also be very dangerous. In many ways that summarizes the shipping industry today. We are talking about record profits right now for container companies, but go back the past 10 years like no, it's hit and miss each year, its profits, its losses. But now you see record profits, we make money and shipping is when the peaks hit and right now we're seeing it in the container section.
- That's unbelievable that all of that was started over pepper. It's something that we give away for free. Why pepper, do you think?
- Because the food was so bad? It was so terrible and people, again, food is terrible. Food is to keep alive, I'm telling you right now we're, we're so spoiled about food. But when you, when you have terrible, terrible food, you will do anything to change it up. And again, it's hard to fathom that people would risk their life again for a condiment. That is exactly what fueled European expansionism in the 1500. They knew about pepper because they got it from China via the Ottoman Empire because of Marco Polo and the Silk Road and everything. And again, it's a classic economic issue too because what, you know what Columbus and the Spanish and the Portuguese are trying to do is get around the middle man. Hey, we're gonna cut out the Ottoman Empire, this massive entity. That's the middle of everything, hence the Middle East. It's between east and west, it's the middle. We're gonna cut out the middleman and go directly to the source. We're gonna go to the Moluccas, get our own pepper and then sell it ourselves. Cut out the middleman, we're gonna make a huge profit. If that's not e-commerce business today, I don't know what it is, but that's basically what they were trying to do.
Trade is everything. One of the big things in controlling trade is geography, and you must have the geography to do it. It's not just about having a port and transportation, but how you control it moving around the ocean.
- Well, you bring up a great segue into our next topic number three, which is geopolitics. Because I feel like we could spend countless hours talking about geopolitics as well as just the shipping industry in general. And there's really so much to talk about here. You mentioned, food and trying to spice it up a little one of those, I guess, key aspects of the current war that's going on between Russia and Ukraine, to the health pandemic and just the global supply chain in general. Historically, what factors determine maritime dominance? Is it the military or is it commercial trade?
- Well, I mean if you look at the writers about this. So, one of the most famous writers on this is an American by the name of Alfred Mahan. Now, every navy person knows Alfred Mahan. He writes this very seminal book in the late 1800s called ‘The influence of seapower upon history’ and every navy person sits there and reads that and says, well what this talks about is we need a big navy. And what Mahan actually talks about, because a lot of people say they read Mahan, but they don't. But if you read Mahan you get into it cause he's a terrible writer. Just it's horrendous 1890s. These terrible writing style. Yes. But if you read it, what he talks about is trade is everything. Trade is goal, trade is everything. And what you have a navy for is to pick your trade because trade is the key. And one of the big things he identifies in controlling trades geography. You have to have the geography to do it. It's not just the geography of having a port and transportation, but how do you control it moving around the ocean. If you look at the British, for example. Why the British have been a dominant force for such a long time is they control not all the territory in the world, but certain territory in the world. Gibraltar, the entrance to the Mediterranean, the Suez canal, the Singapore, the strait that connects the Indian Ocean into the Pacific Ocean. When you control these key little, what we call maritime chokepoints, this is where trade funnels in, that's why Ever Given got so much more attention than Ever Forward did. Ever Forward got attention because it happened off an American port, it was right by Washington DC. But it didn't block any channel, just went aground. So it's an interesting story Ever Given choked trade. I mean it blocked trade going from Europe to Asia and that had the potential to become very bad, very quickly. And you see that right now in the Black Sea with the Russians and the Ukrainians, because one of the things we're seeing is the choking off of wheat coming out of Ukraine right now. 10% of the world's wheat exports that move by sea come out of Ukraine. And what that means is there are countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia now that are not going to get the wheat they need and that's important. In terms of overall tonnage of wheat grown, it's a small percentage, maybe about less than 1%. But for those countries that import it, it's absolutely essential. And one of the things we see is that influence of what happens when trade is throttled, what happens when it slows down, what happens when it hits a choke point? And again we tend to think of choke points or maybe geographic, but LA - Long Beach was a choke point too. Too much trade came in. All of a sudden you had that dip after March of 2020, everybody went home, people stopped consuming everything. And then you know we didn't need everything we had coming in. But then all of a sudden everything changed. In the summer of 2020 happened and like, I need my peloton, I need my new work office, I need different things than we normally buy. And so all of a sudden what was normally being shipped over has this new layer on top because everybody didn't know how long this is gonna last. I mean, we all thought by spring or fall of 2020 everything will be back to normal. Here we are two years later still trying to figure it out. And so what you saw coming across on the ships was the normal cargo but now we're gonna add on this other cargo on top of it. And then, by the way it's holiday season, so we're gonna add some more on top of it. And what we did is we swamp the ports, and we created these choke points in and out of LA. We knew more about the ports of LA and Long Beach than anyone wants to know about the ports of LA and Long Beach, the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal. All these areas became these vital areas and again it goes back to my issue that ships are important. I love ships and also you know that I'll talk about ships all day long. But we don't live on ships. We live on the land. It's how the ships promote our living on land. That's the most important, that interaction, that connectivity.
- You mentioned the maritime chokepoints all over the world, but you also have talked about the UK and the British and being, sort of dominant when it comes to the different areas that they controlled. Would you also say that, historically speaking from, Greece and Portugal, is that also a reason why they were so dominant during their heyday? Is it because they control these ports and these different chokeholds?
- So go back to my favorite Greek story of all time because, we go back to ancient for you right here, go back to Helen of Troy. One of the most famous seminal Greek stories of all time. The woman who's so beautiful, she launched 1000 ships is the story. The Mycenaean Greeks sail off to Troy to get back, the wife of the brother of Agamemnon. It's a great story. But when you look at it, it's bogus. She doesn't launch one ship. It's all economics because where Troy is, is at the end of the Turkish straits that leads you into the Black Sea because what's on the other side of the Black Sea is the Ukraine today and Russia, which is the largest grain basket in the world. It's wheat, it's crops and everything. And the Trojans strangled the Greeks over food. This is what they did. They controlled it. They were the classic middleman. And what they did is they would get all that grain coming in from the Black Sea and then sell it to the Greeks at a huge markup. And the Greeks didn't like being subjected to this and all they needed was an excuse and the excuse was Helen of Troy. And so the Greeks launched this huge invasion which featured everyone from Brad Pitt in the 2004 movie over and everything like that.
- Great movie by the way.
- I know it's great, just a couple of flaws in the movie. But besides that it's a great movie. But they come over and they besieged Troy for 10 years. I mean 10 years. It's not in the movie, it's like, but it's 10 years, they besiege it. And it's not Helen. Again, it's all economics because again, what the Greeks want to do is that they can destroy Troy. They can open up the floodgates. What is the Bosporus and Dardanelles, the Turkish straight and get to that food source. And that's a classic example of where you see that happen in ancient times. I use this as an example in my maritime history courses, like, let's look at this, you can use the movie, it's like, here's the movie, here's what's depicted. Now, let's talk about what the real story is behind this. And you know, fast forward to 1915 when the British invade the same area in World War One, the Gallipoli Peninsula. This time it's not Brad Pitt, it's Mel Gibson in the 1981 movie coming ashore in Gallipoli. It's the same thing, they're trying to get at the grain in the Black Sea. And again it all comes down to resources and food, lots of time. We'd like to put a lot of, you know, high mindedness to this, but in truth, it comes down to the resources almost all the time that impact shipping. And that's what we use shipping for, to move these large quantities, big bulk items all the time and then very expensive, very rare items.
- So, between the ships and the merchant mariners and geopolitics. It's really, the common theme here so far is food.
- Well, it's resources. I would always argue its resources, it is whatever, it is food, oil, minerals, whatever you need. It tends to be. It is the very unsexy topic in shipping that we tend not to talk about a lot. We talk about containers, but in truth bulk ships, which either move oil, grain, ore, that's the big topic cause when they don't move, then you can't manufacture anything. You can't sustain your population. They're the ones that cause a lot of problems in the world because when there's disruptions in those bulk trades, it's what we see cause global pandemic or global hysterics at times. I mean look at right now in the Northeast of the United States with diesel fuel, I mean there's not a shortage of diesel fuel. I mean we have diesel fuel. The problem with the shortage in the Northeast is getting that diesel fuel there.
History of AIS data
Historically, there were a lot of collisions between ships. Originally, vessel positions were communicated over VHF radio. This was hard in areas with a lot of traffic, such as the English Channel. AIS, on the other hand, allows you to track vessels and see who they are. AIS doesn’t only allow for collision avoidance, but it also allows you to track vessels and identify the movement of vessels live, the vessel type, routes, and time in port in a way that was impossible before.
- So we've talked about the three main topics, with the merchant mariners and the geopolitics and the big ships. But the final topic that I have is the data and technology. And you kind of hinted at some of the tech advances that have gone on throughout the industry. But I want to first take it just a little back to the AIS standards and it stands for automatic identification system. How did this system evolve from being an anti collision tool into something much more than it is today?
- Well, we recognize the classic airport radars that we see with planes squawking and everything like that. Ships didn't do that. Ships for a long time, one of the things we saw was again, we had a lot of collisions and one of the big problems we had was communications with vessels. I sailed at a time before AIS. I'm this old, but I am. And so you know, you would have to call a ship on a VHF radio and you had to give them their position and you just didn't know it was, it was really hard. Especially if you're in a very tight area with a lot of traffic. If you're in the English Channel, in the straits of Malacca, it's almost impossible to figure out who's who and what AIS allowed you to do is identify that. By pushing the button, I know who everybody is. I can see who they are. And now all of a sudden we can identify, I'm not just gonna call a ship off my port bow at about 10 miles, 56 miles northeast of Singapore. I'm gonna call, hey, motor vessel empty squad. This is me. I need to talk to you. It's great. It's fantastic. It's wonderful. But what we found out was this not only allowed us to do collision avoidance, which it does, but it also allowed us to track vessels and identify movement of vessels in a way before that we never were able to do. One of the toughest things as a historian, for example, for me to do is to get primary source data and determine for example, how many ships are coming into a port, that means going into port registries. It's reading a lot of documents. It's hard to get. Especially recent documents because that's kind of close hold stuff. But with AIS, now you can see it virtually live. I mean you can see it as it unfolds and you can see trends in data where ships are going, what type ships are going, what volume of ships are going, how frequent are the port stays, how long are they staying, what's their routes, are they maintaining reliability on their routes, are they following the set pattern put out there? Because again one of the things that we've seen historically in shipping is technology has always been at the forefront. It's always you know everything from electronic technology to insurance for example, insurance comes from shipping. I mean that's where it comes from. It's one of the oldest elements we have in shipping. And so AIS data is so crucial because it allows shippers, carriers and allows consumers to see where their goods are and where they're moving. And more importantly where am I going to put my money in the future? Because we can see the development of ports. You can see how new areas are blossoming up or issues with other areas. Why is this sport not developing the way it should be? I remember in the height of Covid when we looked at 100 ships off LA and Long Beach you'd hop up into Oakland and there's nobody there. Why is nobody in Oakland? What's the genesis behind that? It seemed to be just simple. Okay. If you're not gonna get in LA and Long Beach, go to Oakland. Well, there are reasons behind it. What are the reasons you find out? It has to do with support, has to do with relations. It has to do with the ability to cargo in and out. And so AIS data gives you a transparency that did not exist for a long time in shipping or it was very hard to get that data at your fingertips.
The biggest cyber attack ever against a shipping firm was in 2017 against Maersk. Shipping companies must have open systems. You must be able to get into the system to book and see the visibility of the cargo, making it inherently dangerous because you can’t lock it down and secure it.
- I would imagine with all of this tech that has come into the industry, especially over the last few years, a handful of years, that tech advancements and things like that. I would imagine that cyber attacks are just increasingly on the rise. Is this something, I'm trying to figure out what the motivation would be to hack, to attack, cyber attack a ship? What are the reasonings behind that? Is it maybe just geopolitical or is it something more, I guess more commercial? And they're trying to get a ransom out of it?
- Yeah. Well you got a couple of things. So like the biggest cyber attack ever against a shipping firm was 2017 against Maersk. And it was called the NotPetya virus, which actually was because of the Ukraine Russia conflict. And shipping companies have to have open systems, you have to be able to get into the system to book your cargo, see the visibility of the cargo, so they're inherently dangerous in that way. Because you can't really lock them down, you can't secure them because again it's visibility, it doesn't do you any good, you can't encrypt it like a Department of Defense network. It has to be open. And in the case of Maersk in 2017 they got infected as a kind of a collateral damage because of offices, and I think it was in Russia Ukraine, but they uploaded basically malware that just ran the entire Maersk system. Because when you had a ship cargo you had to get into these servers and literally the entire Maersk system was infected, except for one server in Lagos, Nigeria, that happened to be offline because of a blackout. And when the virus hit it fried all their computers, all their service, everything, they lost $300 million dollars. Three weeks, they couldn't move ships. I mean this is again, you have to understand the loading of a container ship is a very sophisticated Jenga game. You just, it's not just putting boxes, you know where they fit, they have to be in sequential order. They've got to be weighted. This cargo compatibility, where they're going off, where they're going on. And now, I always make the example: Okay, now do your jigsaw, 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, flip it upside down, break it up and wear a blindfold, go ahead. You know, you can do it but it's gonna take you a really, really long time to do it. And so you have that danger with it. Now, it didn't impact a lot of people because it really only impacted you if you had your cargo an Maersk ship. Because in 2017, we had excess capacity on ships. Other container liners could pick up the capacity. It wasn't a problem. Today, it would be catastrophic if it hit because ships are at capacity and ports are at capacity. And what we see now, and we saw it last year, was a series of attacks against shipping company, CMA, CGM. We saw it against the IMO. We saw it against Mediterranean Shipping Company, saw it against Cosco. And a lot of these are malware attacks where they're trying to, or ransomware attacks, where they're trying to get money out of them. You know, we saw it against the Colonial Pipeline. We've seen it against different entities. Because again, their systems have to be open, so they have to be able to receive and uplink data all the time. And that makes them really suffer. What we've seen these companies do is get redundancy. Redundancy in their system so that if they do get an infection, they can isolate it, they can purge the system and it's not infecting everyone across the board. They tried this with a system called Blockchain. It didn't work very well because it was very redundant and it didn't prevent it from happening. Let's put it that way. And so security issues has been really important. And one of the things that we've seen too is these container companies and particularly as they've created alliances, you know, the two M alliance: Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping for example. They need to share data, they need to share data across. The Federal Maritime Commission in the United States wants more visibility of data coming in. So that shippers, you know, when I book something on amazon, when I hit my thing on amazon, I can track that thing all the way. It's great. It's leaving the facility now, it's on a truck in, you know, in Greenville South Carolina. I'm seeing it. Hey, it's 10 houses away. We don't see that kind of visibility all the time in container shipping. I mean, again, we don't quite have that yet. But when you have that visibility that also has danger associated with it, that people can see these shipments, they can track them and so you have to have security in place. So it's a, it's a fine line between security for the system versus visibility that people want. I need to know where my goods are. One of the biggest complaints we had in the past two years is you know, I know my container was on this ship, it got to LA Long Beach. I don't know where it is yet, and it's like well, it's in LA Long Beach, we just don't know where. And that's been a big huge problem with that. How do you track it? How do you get that visibility versus the security issue?
- And so we've talked about AIS and the evolution of that data set and visibility. And then we've also talked about you know sort of the cybersecurity and trying to maintain and walk that fine line. But what about on the innovation side of things? Are we gonna see any kind of, say, in trucking for example, autonomous trucks is sort of the hot topic and has been the hot topic for the past couple of years. Is innovation like that happening with these big you know, cargo and bulk ships?
- Well, I actually argue that the innovation has been going on long before you even talk about autonomous trucks. So one of the things you're talking about with autonomous trucks now is you know, maybe we'll pair trucks up, there'll be a driver truck and maybe three or four unmanned following in its wake. If you look at ships, like again, like Ever Given. Ever Given has a crew of 25 on board, it has 24,000 boxes. To do that years ago, you would have multiple ships, which ships with the crews of 35 to 40 people on board. So we are automating, we are getting autonomous and automating the number of people involved in this. And in fact, some of the criticisms have been, maybe the crews are getting too small. Maybe there's not enough personnel, maybe we're putting too much work on them. Maybe there's not enough automation in tracking the vessels and doing that. I talked about the fact that, you know, when you go through the Suez Canal, I've been through three times. You have somebody physically driving the ship. Why are we not automating that? You know, why do we not have a system where I get in my car? It stays between lanes. Why can't I stay between the lanes of the Suez Canal? That seems pretty straightforward. Why don't we do that? There's always questions about an industry that doesn't like a lot of change versus an industry that has been on the cutting edge. And I would argue, you see a lot of autonomy, for example, on engines right now, you have very small crews in the engine rooms, but a lot of the data that's on the engines is automated. There's computer systems on every main engine on a ship for example. It catalogs the data, it uplinks them through your satellite uplink to the maker of the engine. And that maker is looking at the performance data for not just your ship, but every ship that engine is installed on. And they may sit there and say: Okay, we're seeing an issue at the 5000 hour mark. We need to do this type of repair. We're gonna send out a crew to do maintenance on it. So we're seeing that element already taking place in the vessels. It's allowing smaller crews more fixed maintenance on the vessels. They're predicting a lot more when issues go wrong with the ships than ever before. They already identify, okay, we need to take this engine offline and do it. And so we're really seeing that. I mean one of the weird places you see it that most people don't understand it, they see it in its and cruise ships. Cruise ships have the most ridiculous reliability ever. I went on a Disney cruise not too long ago before Covid. And you know, they gave me the brochure for future cruises and instead of looking where the ships went, I did like my stupid thing on a cruise ship as I sat there and I like posted, how many days are these ships at sea? And I literally like on a calendar, figure it out like this ship is always at sea, it's really crazy. There's no, it's running back to back seven day trips. And to me, a sailor is like, how do they do that? How do you run seven day back to back trips? You're not a shipyard, you're not doing maintenance. How do you do that? And I talked to the engineer on board because I met him, I was like, can I ask you, how do you do this? And he talked about the fact that like, well, you know, we have five main engines, I only need three to run the ship. He goes one is always under repair, he goes and the other is the backup, he goes and we know when we fix one, we go to the next one and we just rotate through our engines. It's like, I'm always rotating and it's like that's that reliability, that's that redundancy that you're seeing. And to me that's a really incredible element that they build into these types of shipping. And we see that now, and in a lot of other industries, in trucking and freight and, you know, automated and even drones in some ways. We're seeing that we figured that out in ports a long time ago. We're using automated trucks, we're using, you know, automated cranes to move things. And so again, I would argue that shipping is always on the forefront of a lot of technology that we take for granted.
- And I think too, any time you add technology to a situation, you're increasing the efficiency. And even, you know, a small percentage of increased efficiency could mean, hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for a lot of these companies that are contracting these vessels out. So I think it's incredible to see.
- Right. It's not like technology makes less work for you. You know, I always joke about the fact that, back in the day, to wash your clothes took an inordinate amount of time to wash your clothes. I said when you wash your clothes today, you're throwing it in the machine, you don't sit there and watch it for 60 minutes. I mean no one does that, they do something else. It allows you to be more productive. You don't watch the things spin in the dryer, maybe you do, I don't know, but most people don't. They go and do something else. It allows you to be more productive. And that's the same thing with technology and freight and shipping. Now we can be more productive. We can rotate these ships out faster. We can get more voyages on a ship. Again, you can have the greatest, biggest ship in the world. 24,000 boxes. It doesn't do you any good if you're only getting one voyage a year out of that ship, you gotta have 4, 5, 6 voyages. And when there's congestion, and it slows it down, it doesn't matter how big your ship is, if you're only getting four voyages versus the six you plan for, you are not being productive. And a lot of that has to do with technology and moving freight and goods out of ports and making sure, you know, hey, maybe I don't need four voyages. Maybe I don't need six voyages. Maybe I need to think smaller vessels, they're more efficient and getting in and out of ports and these big larger ships.
- All great points, especially for those four main topics that I wanted to hit on. And when me and the Spire team were talking about this interview, they had a ton of questions that they wanted to ask you as well. So for the final part, it's kind of like a bonus topic of this. I wanted to do a little bit of a rapid fire but not really cause I definitely want you to expand on these questions.
Ancient maritime laws
Current admiralty laws and shipping laws are built on ancient laws. Bills of lading is an example. Sal gives examples of early forms of bills of lading found at the bottom of the Black Sea. Sal also explains about some ancient laws around ownership and the right to seize vessels.
- But I got a couple questions from the Spire team themselves and the first one is what are some ancient maritime laws that still affect us to this day?
- Literally admiralty law and shipping law is built on ancient laws. I mean, basically, everything from bills of lading that were written. Some of the earliest language examples, we have our bills of lading. It's basically, these are the stamps on sealed jars and amphoras that we move goods from. You know, if you look at ancient wrecks in the Mediterranean or the Black Sea. The Black Sea is my favorite, because the Black Sea is a unique area because the lower level of the Black Sea is unique because there's no oxygen in it. It's weird because of the geography of the Black Sea, it's very deep and there's no oxygen. So you actually find vessels perfectly preserved. Wooden vessels with their masts standing up. Usually, in most areas that you find are these jars, these amphoras. And a lot of these amphoras will be stamped. There'll be seals on them. And then there may be writing on the side and a lot of that's the earliest writing examples and they're simple bills of lading. There were the ideas like this cargo is consigned to this person. Or this is going to be delivered here, or this is what's in it. And so very utilitarian, most early writing. And one of the things we see is maritime law, the concepts of ownership of salvage, of who owns a cargo. We see that translated today, you know that there's really not an admiralty law specialty because that law is just hereditary. Moving down, even an example in World War One, the United States found itself in a weird position. It got into World War One late and it could not, it didn't have enough ships to carry over its troops. So there were German ships in ports. So it seizes them. But even that wasn't enough. And so instead in March of 1918, it seize neutral Dutch vessels and it did it under a medieval right called angary, which was done in medieval time that allowed a monarch to seize vessels in their kingdom if they needed them for the realm. That's literally the right the 1300s, right in 1917 that the US does to seize Dutch vessels. And it sounds weird to say that today, but I've seen Department of Defense plans for in case of war, they quote the right of angary, a medieval right to seize vessels should they need them again. And so a lot of our laws in maritime law go back, I mean, they get back to the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks and again, you know, our system of government, the democracy is an ancient Greek idea. So it shouldn't be surprising that a lot of our maritime laws go all the way back to them.
- That's incredible. I feel like that is just a historical thesis. I guess, probably plenty of theses have been written on that topic.
People must understand that a lot in the maritime industry is not new. History has repeated itself many times. Understanding where the industry changed is what is truly important.
- So for the next question that the Spire team had, they said for the entrepreneur or an investor who is building a maritime business, what should they know about history?
- Well, again, I think, understanding the fact that a lot in the maritime industry is not new. It repeats a lot of times. So I think understanding where the maritime industry has been and change is really important. You know, when you look at the fact that one of the biggest things is technology. Technology resets maritime industry time and time again, whether it is a new type of sailing vessel, the introduction of the schooner, or the clipper ship or, the use of steam propulsion, or the use of iron in vessel construction, or the idea of… Hey, we're gonna come up with a new way of sailing on a set liner schedule instead of just going into a port and trying to buy cargo. We're gonna sail on a schedule and cargo will come to us. Radio, which was fantastic, which now all of a sudden you can send messages ahead of time to figure out what's the best ports in the world to go to sell your cargo. The submarine cable. The way you communicate today is through maritime underwater cables. Most people think that their phone, you call buddy in Australia, oh, it's by satellites. No, it's a string. There's a string that's connecting you that goes underwater. The only cordless part of this is to the tower that's probably a mile away from you. All the rest is done by that. And the reason for that underwater cable was so that you can wire ahead and figure out what's the best port I can go to, to sell my cotton or my oil into and I'll get the most money from. So I think, if you're looking at the maritime industry, you have to be sinked into technology and technology gives you the one up over everybody else. You know, you gotta be willing. Not all technologies are the panacea and not all technologies work instantaneously. When Malcolm Mclean developed containerization, McClain wasn't a shipping guy, he was a truck driver. He just realized, man, we're moving cargo terribly. I'm gonna come up with this new utilitarian idea of putting goods in a box, sealing it and then we're gonna put it on a ship. He did that 1956. He didn't make money from that for a long time. It took him over 10 years to sell that idea. And it's only during the Vietnam war of all things. When the US had to get a lot of cargo, they had a huge backlog of ships off the ports in Vietnam. He was able to sell to the military. Hey, I can clear that backlog with 10 ships and it always makes me wonder right now if there's a truck driver waiting on a line somewhere who's sitting there going, you know, I got a better way of doing this and I'm gonna come up with a way that's going to revolutionize shipping. And it's the irony of it all is that the people who really innovate shipping, ocean shipping largely aren't involved in ocean shipping in the direct way. They're not sailing the vessels, they're the ones who are using the vessels to basically promote their industry or to do a business.
- Would you say that, that containerization, would you say that that's the greatest maritime innovation?
- I think, I'm torn between that and really the invention of steam propulsion in mechanical propulsion, which gets us out of wind power. Which really allows you to standardize. But containerIzation, I have to put it up there. You know, Malcolm McLean was identified as one of the top 100 innovators in the 20th century by Harvard. I think it's very hard not to sit there and say this is a person who completely, fundamentally, changes prosperity for not just Americans, but for everybody on the planet now. We have never been so intertwined globally. There's a great book by Mark Levinson. He wrote a book called The Box, which talks about containers. But his most recent book Beyond The Box, talks about how the world post World War Two, post Malcolm Mclean containers has really been truly globalized now so that we can move goods so that it's almost seamless. There's almost no cost associated. Even with the high freight rates we're talking about today, in some cargos you don't see that cost at all. And it's very hard to offset it. And it is done more to raise the standard of living for everybody across the planet than almost any other invention. It has its negatives. I'm not gonna deny that. It has huge negatives in terms of sending economies overseas and making people more interrelated and maybe we're fueling a consumer culture that is not good in the long run. But in terms of really changing the world. Yeah, I gotta put containerization up there.
- All right, well, let's end the last question on a little bit of a dramatic note. What is the most scandalous maritime event ever in history?
- Well, the most scandalous event in maritime history now there's many, I mean, the Pantheon here again, I talked about Helen of Troy in this video. So there is a lot of scandal out there in shipping. And again, I come back to the fact that almost all shipping rules are written in blood and you know, there are issues that we know were wrong and shipping and we still allowed them to take place. And to put us into a kind of common, you know, let's go fairly most recently, I'm gonna go with one that everybody knows, one that they're very cognizant of, but the sinking of Titanic, for example, in terms of scandalous. I think it showed a hubris, in many ways, the concept of a ship that could defy everything. You know, it was unsinkable and that was a phrase that was used. I mean, it was a concept. Everybody knew the ship didn't have enough lifeboats for everybody. That's not a surprise. Everybody knew, everybody knew this. It doesn't take Jack and Rose drowning for us to realize that they were short of lifeboats. But the concept was that they would never need them. And therefore we're gonna build this ship that really smacks in the face of everything. And, you know, any mariner will tell you a pinhole leak in a ship will sink it. It's only a matter of time. You know, a drop of water entering the ship is going to sink it after a moment of time. And you need to realize that what we build are temporary. It's defying nature in many ways. The ocean is a corrosive acid. We don't like to think of it, but it is and it's eating away all the time and the ocean doesn't care about you. Water is unforgiving, all it wants to do is drown you and it doesn't care. And the fact that we overcome it on such a routine basis. To me is what makes shipping such an interesting topic. And again, there are slews of stories out there that even predate Titanic. The sinking of the Arctic in the 1850s, which is a great story and a very tragic story, is one that's out there. The Exxon Valdez, hitting, going out of the channel, leaving Alaska was a horrific story. The sinking of the Lusitania. And you can name it. There's just so many of them out there that you can hit on. But one of the things I think that's really interesting about maritime and I always talk about this, is it's very reflective of our society. It's a microcosm, its technology, its labor, it's society, its politics, its economics and you can catch it. You know, if you do a dive on a wreck, you get a moment of history. I was just watching a live dive yesterday on the monitor, the civil war ironclad off the coast of North Carolina. And it's always fascinating to me because it's caught in history and time. And it's slowly decaying away. It's slowly going away. But for a moment there you're captured in. It's why I love those wrecks in the Black Sea, because they're just amazing, because it looks like they just sank yesterday and you can see them as they were from the Byzantine and the Roman empire. So yeah, it's, I get all sappy about this. I apologize.
- No, no, I feel like that is just such a perfect encapsulation and how to end this conversation because it really is the story of human civilization with, the story of shipping. And so I appreciate all of your, just historical knowledge, not just from that perspective but also from the present day perspective and shining a light on how some of the common issues that have plagued throughout our entire civilization is still evident pretty much today. And that's the battle over resources and food and how do we get those things from point A to point B in an efficient and environmentally friendly and cost effective manner. So we can all live, you know, to the best of our ability. So Sal thank you so much for joining us for Maritime Means. Where can folks follow more of your work, YouTube twitter all that good stuff.
- Sure, so I am on Twitter, so @Mercoglianos, you followed always kind of very raucous kind of twitter feed but my YouTube channel: ‘What's going on with shipping?’, I do a weekly video, ‘What the ship’ where I kind of recap the top five stories in the maritime sector and then I do little features during the week on either a subject or a topic that kind of strikes my interests. I do a little bit of history, a little bit of topical issues that are going on. Just really try to create a backdrop and try to educate people more on an industry that unfortunately usually only makes the news when a disaster happens. But you know one of the things I really try to do is get people educated, let them find out a little bit more about it. You know, industries don't like to talk to people outside their industry. They're not very good at it. So I try to give that historian 50,000 ft perspective and make it understandable to everybody.
- Well, you've certainly done that during this show because I feel like I could write 1000 papers and talk to you for hours about this. But in order to, I guess, respect everybody's time, we'll give them a little bit of tastier content and then they can go to your YouTube channel and dive in even more so. So Sal, thank you again.
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