Book Review: THE SHIPPING MAN, By Matthew McCleery

As many of you know, sailing is not the easiest way to make a living. There are good runs and bad runs with great and miserable crews. Nice and terrible ships, and great and horrible owners. There are a few books out there that touch on merchant shipping, some of them even good.

THE SHIPPING MAN is a novel by Matthew McCleery about the crazy world of shipowners and finance:

 

When restless New York City hedge fund manager Robert Fairchild watches the Baltic Dry Cargo Index plunge 97%, registering an all-time high and a 25-year low within the span of just six months, he decides to buy a ship.

Immediately fantasizing about naming a vessel after his wife, carrying a string of worry beads and being able to introduce himself as a “shipowner” at his upcoming college reunion, Fairchild immediately embarks on an odyssey into the most exclusive, glamorous and high stakes business in the world.

From pirates off the coast of Somalia and on Wall Street to Greek and Norwegian shipping magnates, the education of Robert Fairchild is an expensive one. In the end, he loses his hedge fund, but he gains a life – as a Shipping Man. Part fast-
paced financial thriller, part ship finance text book, The Shipping Man is 310 pages of required reading for anyone with an interest in capital formation for shipping. – Amazon

the shipping man book review

Instead of me attempting to pick a nice excerpt or two, you can read the first chapter here for free. (PDF Link).  The author, Mr. McCleery, is the President of Marine Money International. So he is writing from a position in the know. Which makes me wonder what kind of stories he wished he could have put into this book but dare no, at least not yet.

I am not one to read much these days.  Between work and an internet connection full of unlimited possibilities to waste time, if I am going to stop everything to pick up a book, that book better be damn good. That said, after reading the first chapter (see link above) I was hooked and ordered the book. I burned through the book in three days. This is part of the other problem I have with books. When they are good, I just have to read the whole thing.

It didn’t hurt that I was familiar with a number of locations mentioned in the book as well as familiar with the kinds of people portrayed in the book. This made it easy to accept what would appear to an outsider to be completely unbelievable situations. Anyone who has sailed has a couple of their own sea stories that anyone but another sailor would believe. This book seems to put together a story of a person’s venture into shipowning that truly falls into the category of sea story.

So, if you are looking for something to read or know of someone who likes sea stories or if you are a businessman who would like a little insight into the financial aspects of owning a ship, then by all means give this book a try.

One thing this book confirmed, is my investing rule to stay away from shipping line stocks. Not that the stocks are bad, just that I am not smart enough to make money buying and selling them. For those who want to give it a try, see ‘Betting on Shipping Stocks? Sometimes Ignoring the Herd Pays [MARKET ADVICE]‘, ‘Horizon Lines Shares Delisted From NYSE‘ as well as gCaptain’s finance related posts.