Portfire40 names first inductee: The Banksy of shipping?

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March 8, 2011

Editors note: The new Portfire40 Series will portray those people in the maritime industry that possess “alternative power” having exhibited a lasting impact on the industry by the novelty and vigor of their thinking, the strength of their passion for improvement and the impact they have on the community, as voted on by a number of leading industry publications and commentators.

The person deemed most worthy of inclusion in the Portfire40 is a man (or woman) of mystery.

By Ryan Skinner (email)

After a considerable nominations process and then voting, the first winner of Portfire40 was selected! Months ago, in fact.

Unfortunately, this first honoree is a shy man. Months of attempts to get him to talk manifestly failed. Finally, Peter Mello of Sea-Fever proposed we consider him as a little like the Banksy of shipping – a mysterious, influential figure.

You see, he calls himself HAUS. He seems to be a seafarer. And he edits Wikipedia articles.

That’s it.

Some of you may ask: “How does this qualify him for inclusion in Portfire40, which is about people who are having a lasting impact on the industry by the novelty and vigor of their thinking, the strength of their passion for improvement and the impact they have on the community?

This is no throw-away first prize. The significance lies in the platform where HAUS has chosen to have his impact, and the novelty and passion of this effort.

Take your average shipping commentator – be it a journalist, market analyst or broker. His words have a very short sell-by date. Even the best of content may generate some few thousand viewings before it’s more or less dust.

On the other hand, some of the articles started or edited by HAUS have easily racked up viewings in the tens of thousands or more, and they’ll be cited and re-cited for years across the web. Consider articles he’s started on the Fednav Group, Notice to Mariners, deadweight tonnage or International Seamen’s Union.

Taken by itself, HAUS’ contribution to maritime literature is tremendous, it’s all public and it’s all vetted by a huge community of editors, all with equivalent levels of knowledge and editing skill.

And it’s perhaps that community that pushes HAUS over the edge into Portfire40. As a maestro of Wiki-editing, HAUS has a gravitas in the Wikipedia community that must be respected. One of the backers of Portfire40, gCaptain, had a well-publicised battle with the Wikipedia community when he was (arguably, unfairly) blacklisted on Wikipedia. Negative control is power. HAUS provided a voice of reason supporting gCaptain.

Doubt the reach and influence of HAUS? If you’re in the shipping industry, you’ve probably read something he’s written or edited, or something that references something he’s written or edited.

Considering the value many brands attach to their Wikipedia presence (look at Kongsberg’s, Wilhelmsen’s, Wartsila’s or even semi-secretive Maersk’s page), there is a real risk should a business run afoul of a guy like HAUS with their Wikipedia article. Can you say “hard edit”?

This is clearly alternative influence. It’s not the kind of power that comes from inheriting a shippig empire or slowly climbing the ranks of a huge shipping conglomerate. It’s the kind of influence that grows inversely to its visibility. The less HAUS sticks out, the more influence he has.

We draw attention to HAUS here not to decrease that influence, but to praise it. Congratulations on joining Portfire40, HAUS! You deserve it.

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