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Maritime entrepreneurs and policy-makers: a historical approach to contemporary economic globalization

  • Espen Ekberg (a1), Even Lange (a2) and Andreas Nybø (a3)


This article adopts a historical approach to examine the role played by maritime entrepreneurs and maritime policy-makers in the unprecedented growth of world trade during the second half of the twentieth century. The purpose is to show how globalization as a macroeconomic process was shaped and sustained by human agency operating within maritime business and maritime politics. For more than two decades, economic globalization has been a major field of study within the social sciences. While providing many valuable insights, this literature tends to approach globalization primarily from a macro-perspective and to treat the process largely in quantitative terms. Through a series of separate historical case studies, this article shows the possibilities of more micro- and meso-oriented analysis, focusing more on processes and transformations than stages and outcomes.



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1 E.g. Hopkins, A. G., ed., Globalization in world history, New York: W. W. Norton, 2002; Bayly, C. A., The birth of the modern world, 1780–1914: global connections and comparisons, Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004; Hopkins, A. G., Global history: interactions between the universal and the local, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; Osterhammel, Jürgen and Petersson, Niels P., Globalization: a short history, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005; Riello, Giorgio, Cotton: the fabric that made the modern world, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013; Osterhammel, Jürgen, The transformation of the world: a global history of the nineteenth century, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.

2 Clarence-Smith, William Gervase, Pomeranz, Kenneth, and Peer Vries, ‘Editorial’, Journal of Global History, 1, 1, 2006, p. 1.

3 Miller, Michael B., Europe and the maritime world: a twentieth century history, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

4 For details on the coal trade see Stopford, Martin, Maritime economics, London: Routledge, 2009, pp. 450–453; Harlaftis, Gelina, A history of Greek-owned shipping: the making of an international tramp fleet, 1830 to the present day, London: Routledge, 1996, p. 253.

5 Lorange, Peter, Shipping strategy: innovating for success, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 82.

6 Hummels, David, ‘Transportation costs and international trade in the second era of globalization’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21, 3, 2007, pp. 131–154.

7 Hummels, David, ‘Have international transportation costs declined?’, University of Chicago, 1999, p. 8, available at (consulted 21 November 2014).

8 See e.g. Shah Mohammed, Saif I. and Williamson, Jeffrey G., ‘Freight rates and productivity gains in British tramp shipping 1869–1950’, Explorations in Economic History, 41, 2, 2004, pp. 172–203; Persson, Karl Gunnar, An economic history of Europe: knowledge, institutions and growth, 600 to the present, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010; Findlay, Ronald and O'Rourke, Kevin H., Power and plenty: trade, war, and the world economy in the second millennium, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

9 See e.g. Findlay and O'Rourke, Power and plenty.

10 Hummels, , ‘Transportation costs’, p. 145.

11 For a more elaborate discussion, see Ekberg, Espen, Lange, Even, Merok, and Eivind, ‘Building the networks of trade: perspectives on twentieth-century maritime history’, in Gelina Harlaftis, Stig Tenold, and Jesús M. Valdaliso, eds., The world's key industry: history and economics of international shipping, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012, pp. 89–95.

12 Miller, , Europe and the maritime world, p. 11.

13 Ibid., p. 75.

14 The following paragraph is based on Erling Dekke Næss, Autobiography of a shipping man, Colchester: Seatrade Publications, 1977, pp. 138–40. See also Ekberg, Lange, and Merok, ‘Building the networks’, pp. 88–105.

15 Deadweight tonnage, indicating the weight that a ship can safely carry.

16 Næss, , Autobiography, p. 139.

17 Stopford, , Maritime economics, p. 421.

18 Kaukiainen, Yrjö, ‘Journey costs, terminal costs and ocean tramp freights: how the price of distance declined from the 1870s to 2000’, International Journal of Maritime History, 18, 2, 2006, p. 28.

19 Stopford, , Maritime economics, p. 39.

20 Theotokas, Ioannis and Harlaftis, Gelina, Leadership in world shipping: Greek family firms in international business, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, p. 44.

21 Ibid., pp. 14–15.

22 Ibid., pp. 47–50.

23 Tenold, Stig, ‘Norway's interwar tanker expansion: a reappraisal’, Scandinavian Economic History Review, 55, 3, 2007, pp. 244–261.

24 Harlaftis, Gelina, Greek shipowners and Greece 1945–1975, London: The Athlone Press 1993, pp. 44–45.

25 Figures from Kaukiainen, Yrjö, ‘Growth, diversification and globalization: main trends in international shipping since 1850’, in Lewis R. Fischer and Even Lange, eds., International merchant shipping in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the comparative dimension, St John's, Newfoundland: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2009, pp. 1–56.

26 Stopford, , Maritime economics, p. 452.

27 Figures from Fearnleys review 2005, printed in Stopford, Maritime economics, p. 452.

28 Grimwade, Nigel, International trade: new patterns of trade, production and investment, 2nd edn, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 11–20. The figures for ‘raw materials’ include food. Grimwade uses the expression ‘primary products’ as the common term for these two types of products.

29 The following section is partly based on Ekberg, Lange, and Merok, ‘Building the networks’, and Espen Ekberg and Even Lange, ‘Business history and economic globalisation’, Business History, 56, 1, 2014, pp. 101–15. For a broader description, see Atle Thowsen and Stig Tenold, Odfjell, Bergen: Odfjell ASA, 2006.

30 Grimwade, International trade; World Trade Organization, International Trade Statistics 2009, (consulted 24 November 2014).

31 Thowsen and Tenold, Odfjell, p. 308.

32 Ibid., p. 301.

33 Gross tons indicate the total cubic capacity of a ship. It is calculated by measuring the total volume of all the enclosed spaces of the ship, from keel to funnel to the outside of the hull framing, and by applying a standard formula.

34 Miller, , Europe and the maritime world, p. 310.

35 Ibid., p. 308.

36 Ibid., p. 320.

37 See e.g. Broeze, Frank, The globalisation of the oceans: containerisation from the 1950s to the present, St Johns, Newfoundland: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2002; Burg, G. van den, Containerisation: a modern transport system, London: Hutchinson, 1969; Cudahy, Brian J., Box boats: how container shipping changed the world, New York: Fordham University Press, 2006; Donovan, Arthur and Bonney, Joseph, The box that changed the world: fifty years of container shipping – an illustrated history, East Windsor, NJ: Commonwealth Business Media Inc, 2006; Kaukiainen, Yrjö, ‘The container revolution and liner freights’, International Journal of Maritime History, 21, 2, 2009, pp. 43–74; Levinson, Marc, The box: how the shipping container made the world smaller and the world economy bigger, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

38 Grimwade, , International trade, p. 14.

39 Figures from Drewry Shipping Consultants, Car/bulk carriers: their impact on the freight market, London: Drewry, 1971; Drewry Shipping Consultants, Car carriers: the fast lane of international shipping, London: Drewry, 2006.

40 A good overview is Graham Vickery, ‘Globalisation in the automobile industry’, in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (henceforth OECD), Globalisation of industry: overview and sector reports, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1996, pp. 153–205.

41 A time charter is a deal whereby a charterer hires a manned ship from a shipowner for a specified period. The owner continues to manage the vessel but the charterer selects the ports and directs the vessel where to go. The following is largely based on Ekberg, Espen, ‘The growth of the deep-sea car-carrying industry, 1960–2008’, in Lewis R. Fischer and Even Lange, eds., New directions in Norwegian maritime history, St John's: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2012, pp. 264–268; and Nerheim, Gunnar and Gjerde, Kristin Øye, Uglandrederiene: verdensvirksomhet med lokale røtter (The Ugland shipowning company: a global enterprise with local roots), Grimstad: Andreas K.L. og Johan Jørgen Ugland, 1996, pp. 143–167.

42 For a broader account of the growth of the deep-sea car carrying industry, see Ekberg, ‘Growth’, pp. 253–79.

43 For a more elaborate version, see Ekberg and Lange, ‘Business history’.

44 Steimler, Svein-Gustav and Stavseth, Sverre, Car transport by sea, Bergen: NHH Institute of Shipping Research, 1970, p. 13.

45 Cited in Ekberg, , ‘Growth’, pp. 265266.

46 Drewry Shipping Consultants, The growth of the car-carrying fleet, London: Drewry, 1977, p. 13. For more on the Dyvi ships, see Dag Bakka, Dyvi a/s: hovedtrekk i rederiets historie (Dyvi Ltd.: main aspects of the company's history), Oslo: Dyvi AS, 2007.

47 Aguilar, Filomeno V., ‘Manilamen and seafaring: engaging the maritime world beyond the Spanish realm’, Journal of Global History, 7, 3, 2012, p. 364.

48 The following is largely based on Andreas K. L. Ugland's private archive, Starten for store bilskip (The introduction of large car carriers), unpublished memo, 2005.

49 A bareboat charter is an arrangement for the hiring of a ship where only the actual ship is included and the hirer himself has to provide the crew.

50 Nerheim, and Gjerde, , Uglandrederiene, pp. 225226.

51 This was obviously an advantageous development for Ugland. The increasing use of Asian crews also implied new labour opportunities for the region's population. But it also implied possibilities for exploitation. For relevant studies, see e.g. Wu, Bin, ‘Globalisation and marginalization of Chinese overseas contract workers’, in Heather Xiaoquan Zhang, Bin Wu, and Richard Sanders, eds., Marginalisation in China: perspectives on transition and globalisation, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007, pp. 135–154; Ruggunan, Shaun, ‘The global labour market for Filipino and South African seafarers in the merchant navy’, South African Review of Sociology, 42, 1, 2011, pp. 78–96.

52 Hugo Grotius, Mare liberum 1609–2009, ed. Robert Feenstra, Leiden: Brill, 2009.

53 OECD Review of maritime transport 1973, Paris: OECD, 1974, p. 16.

54 Findlay, Ronald and O'Rourke, Kevin H., Power and plenty: trade, war, and the world economy in the second millennium, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007, pp. 496, 501–2.

55 Katzenstein, Peter J. and Sil, Rudra, ‘Toward analytic eclecticism: the political economy of an integrated Europe’, in Dag Harald Claes and Carl Henrik Knutsen, eds., Governing the global economy: politics, institutions, and economic development, London: Routledge, 2011, pp. 29–48; Oatley, Thomas, International political economy: interests and institutions in the global economy, 4th edn, New York: Pearson Longman, 2010; Bryn, Åre and Einarsson, Gudmundur, eds., EFTA 1960–2010: elements of 50 years of European history, Reykjavik: University of Iceland Press, 2010; McKenzie, Francine, ‘GATT in the Cold War: accession debates, institutional development, and the Western alliance, 1947–1959’, Journal of Cold War Studies, 10, 3, 2008, pp. 78–109; McKenzie, Francine, ‘The GATT–EEC collision: the challenge of regional trade blocs to the general agreement on tariffs and trade, 1950–1967’, International History Review, 32, 2, 2010, pp. 229–252; Kaiser, Wolfram, Leucht, Brigitte, Rasmussen, and Morten, eds., The history of the European Union: origins of a trans- and supranational polity, London and New York: Routledge, 2009; Müller, Margit and Myllyntaus, Timo, eds., Pathbreakers: small European countries responding to globalisation and deglobalisation, Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008; Irwin, Douglas A., Mavroidis, Petros C., and Alan O. Sykes, The genesis of the GATT, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008; Dingwerth, Klaus and Pattberg, Philipp, ‘Actors, arenas, and issues in global governance’, in Jim Whitman, ed., Palgrave advances in global governance, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009, pp. 41–65; Hurrelmann, Achim, Leibfried, Stephan, Martens, Kerstin, and Peter Mayer, eds., Transforming the golden-age nation state, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; Milward, Alan S., Politics and economics in the history of the European Union, London: Routledge, 2005; Iriye, Akira, Global community: the role of international organizations in the making of the contemporary world, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002; Boughton, James M.Silent revolution: the international monetary fund 1979–1989, Washington DC: International Monetary Fund, 2001; Payne, Anthony, ‘Globalization and modes of regionalist governance’, in John Pierre, ed., Debating governance: authority, steering, and democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 201–218; Griffiths, Richard T., ed., Explorations in OEEC history, Paris: OECD Publishing, 1997; Urwin, Derek W., The community of Europe: a history of European integration since 1945, 2nd edn, London: Longman, 1995; Miljan, Toivo, The reluctant Europeans: the attitudes of the Nordic countries towards European integration, London: C. Hurst & Co., 1977; Hewson, Martin and Sinclair, Timothy J., ‘The emergence of global governance theory’, in Martin Hewson and Timothy J. Sinclair, eds., Approaches to global governance theory, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999, pp. 3–22; Nye, Joseph S., Jr and Robert O. Keohane, ‘Transnational relations and world politics: a conclusion’, International Organization, 25, 3, 1971, pp. 721–748.

56 This section is based on research undertaken in connection with Andreas Nybø's forthcoming PhD thesis ‘Political cross traders: Norwegian actors in international maritime trade politics, 1965–1995’. Some of the findings are published in the article ‘International maritime trade politics and the case of Norway, 1948–1990’, in Fischer and Lange, New directions, pp. 151–76.

57 Cafruny, Alan, Ruling the waves: the political economy of shipping, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987, p. 203.

58 See e.g. Sverderup, Jakob, Inn i storpolitikken, 1940–1949: Norsk utenrikspolitisk historie bind 4 (High politics 1940–1949: the history of Norwegian foreign policy, volume 4), Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1996, pp. 201206; Bruce Farthing and Mark Brownrigg, Farthing on International Shipping, 3rd edn, London: LLP, 1997, pp. 70–1; and Proposition to the Norwegian Parliament (Storting), St. prp. nr. 131, 1958.

59 See Nybø, ‘International maritime trade politics’, pp. 166–7; Norwegian Shipowners’ Association Archives (henceforth NSA), 1-4-Nordisk skipsfartssamarbeid-V, Sigurd Endresen, internal memo, 12 June 1975.

60 See e.g. John O. Egeland, Vi skal videre: Norsk skipsfart etter den annen verdenskrig, perioden 1945–1970 (Moving forward: Norwegian shipping after the Second World War, 1945–1970), Oslo: Aschehoug, 1971, p. 254; OECD archives, DAF/MTC/76.60, Maritime Transport Committee, list of addresses.

61 Norwegian National Archives (Riksarkivet) (henceforth NNA), Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Shipping (henceforth NMTS), Handelsdepartementet, Skipsfartsavdelingen, RA/S-1409/2/D/Dd/L0603: 41/1 Ministermøter i gruppen av 11 – Diverse I, Letter from Johs. Daltsø to Jakob Worm, 13 October 1964.

62 NNA, NMTS, RA/S-1409/2/D/Dd/ L0603: 41/1 Ministermøter i gruppen av 11 – Diverse I, Minutes of Scandinavian–Dutch meeting, December 1964, written by Vikøren.

63 NNA, NMTS, RA/S-1409/2/D/Dd/ L0603: 41/1 Ministermøter i gruppen av 11 – Diverse I, Memo from Johs. Dalstø to Brinch, 30 November 1965; RA/S-1409/2/D/Dd/L0604: 41/3, Draft briefing note for Minister Kåre Willoch. This official brief was in all likelihood written by David Vikøren or members of his staff.

64 See Nybø, ‘International maritime trade politics’, pp. 160–1.

65 OECD archives, MT(74)6.

66 OECD, Maritime transport 1975, Paris: OECD, 1976, p. 12.

67 Archives of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (henceforth NMFA), 44.36/15B, vol. 5, Ketil Børde to NMFA, 31 July 1974.

68 NMFA, 44.36/15B, vol. 5, W. G. Solberg to NMFA, 2 October 1974.

69 For more on the Brussels compromise, see Anna Bredima-Savopoulou and John Tzoannos, The common shipping policy of the EC, Amsterdam: North Holland, 1990, pp. 76–81.

70 Norwegian membership was rejected in a popular referendum in 1972.

71 See e.g. NSA, 1-7B4-XXIII, Rolf Sæther, internal memo, 15 August 1978; NSA, 1-7B4, ‘Direktør David Vikøren. Besøk i Brussel. 24. og 25. oktober 1977 (Director David Vikøren, visit to Brussels, 24 and 25 October 1977)’.

72 See e.g. NSA, 1-4-Nordisk skipsfartssamarbeid-V, Sigurd Endresen, internal memo, 12 June 1975; NSA, 1-4-Nordisk skipsfartssamarbeid-VIII, Agenda for Nordic Coordination Meeting, Helsinki, 22–23 March 1979.

73 NNA, NMTS, RA/S-1409, De-L0147, copy of letter from Anthony J. Lane (British Dept. of Trade, Shipping Policy Division) to Darrel Trent (US Deputy Secretary of Transportation), 16 July 1982.

74 NNA, NMTS, RA/S-1409, De-L0150, Note by the CSG Secretariat, 7 February 1985.

75 NNA, NMTS, RA/S-1409, De-L0150, Note by Olav Hæreid Seim (NMTS), 20 May 1985. For a detailed overview of accession, see: (consulted 24 November 2014).

76 To paraphrase Barack Obama`s reflection on the Declaration of Independence in his 2013 inaugural address.



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