New cowboys of shipping
They are called the new cowboys of shipping: Chinese companies run by provincial governments unfettered by central regulation, plunging into shipownership after the market crash to take advantage of cheap ships and ready cash.
As Chinese maritime dominance grows, concern about the activities of these under-the-radar companies is raising eyebrows. In the opaque global maritime world, this new breed of shipowners remain among the most difficult to regulate and monitor.
Once it was the Greeks who held the reputation for operating sub-standard ships and cutting safety corners as they hid behind a myriad of offshore, single purpose companies to avoid liability.
Now there are murmurs of discontent about the reputational damage these new arrogant cowboys may inflict on a more organised global industry, slowly embracing concepts like corporate social responsibility and understanding the need to present a more open and unified face.
Witness the Shen Neng 1 panamax grounding on Australia"s environmentally sensitive Great Barrier Reef over the Easter weekend. Four days after the event, and amid rising political fallout, the ship"s owner, state-owned Shenzhen Energy Transport remains as invisible as ever.
Not one official comment has been made, let alone an expression of remorse or apology.
These days, there are specialist maritime crisis management agents, who work on behalf of owner to communicate with trade and national media outlets at times of casualties.
Shenzhen appears to care little for this protocol. Its cowboy approach means the damage from its Great Barrier Reef casualty will have major ramifications for the international industry.