Is there any more satisfying moment in human existence than to be able to say “We told you so?” Well, maybe, but allow us to indulge in a few rounds of “we warned you this was coming.”
▪ The meltdown of shipping line Hanjin and the ensuing chaos was an easy call. Not the specific carrier, perhaps, but with reports of canceled orders for added capacity, cargo vessels taken out of service and parked and depressed freight rates, it wasn’t tough to figure that the music had stopped and someone was going to be left without a chair.
Consolidation can be done tidily, such as through mergers, or it can be done messily, as happened with Hanjin (a Port of Seattle customer), leaving ships unable to call on or leave ports and leaving shippers with cargos stranded, just ahead of the critical holiday retailing season.
The Hanjin debacle has had the predictable impact of driving up shipping rates, as shippers scramble to line up alternatives. Maritime research firm Drewry says its world container index shows a 42 percent spike in spot container freight rates on major routes from Asia. But that’s a product of a single short-term event and its timing. The longer-term trends of weak global economic performance and too much capacity haven’t been fixed, even if the capacity represented by Hanjin is permanently off the market.
So we’ll stick to and extend the previous call of consolidation in global shipping. Expect more to come, although for the sake of shippers and the ports perhaps in a less dramatic form.
▪ We’ve also gone on a bit about the subject of taxes, what with ballot measures such as Sound Transit’s megagrab (sales tax, property tax, motor vehicle excise tax) coming to voters this November.
As big as that is, and as crowded as the ballot will be with high-profile issues and candidates, the one that might wind up garnering the most attention and having the biggest long-term effect for this state is a vote most of the state’s, and even the region’s, electorate won’t be participating in.
Olympia’s on-again-off-again municipal income tax proposal is, for the moment, on again. With time growing short for the preparation, printing and distribution of ballots (voting begins Oct. 21 for the Nov. 8 election), barring yet another ruling, voters will get a say on the matter.
But that will be only one of several crucial votes on this issue. Still to come are votes by appeals courts and ultimately the state Supreme Court on suits already filed and those sure to come arguing the constitutionality of an income tax in Washington. Voters in Olympia could wind up rejecting the proposal, but that won’t necessarily render the underlying debate a moot point. Now that Olympia has raised the issue, someone else will try. And if voters in Olympia do approve it and the courts wind up endorsing not just the ballot measure but the concept of state and municipal income taxes? Washington doesn’t have enough trees to produce the paper for all the ballot measures for municipalities to enact an income tax of their own.
▪ The beauty of writing about health care restructuring is that it’s always timely. No sooner does a mention of the trends — consolidation, network expansion, urgent-care facilities — appear in this space than real-world events provide evidence to back up those assertions.
The most recent case involved Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan Health, which announced several moves in Kitsap County. Those included affiliation with The Doctors Clinic, which has 80 primary care doctors and specialists in eight locations, and a decision to close Harrison Medical Center’s original Bremerton hospital and transfer beds to an expanded campus in Silverdale. Harrison joined Franciscan in 2013.
Not to be outdone, fellow Tacoma-based health care network MultiCare has received approval from regulators to add 66 acute-care beds at Good Samaritan in Puyallup and 23 beds at its inpatient rehabilitation unit, bringing the hospital’s overall count to 375 beds. A $44.5 million project is to be completed by mid-2018.
It’s as safe to predict more announcements of this type from these and other health care networks in the region as it is to expect more discussion over taxes in the state or consolidation in the shipping business. That won’t make the events any less newsworthy or important to businesses and individuals in this region when they occur, but they will give us one more opportunity to say, with a bit of humblebrag, “oh yeah, we called that one.”
Bill Virgin is editor and publisher of Washington Manufacturing Alert and Pacific Northwest Rail News. He can be reached at email@example.com.