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23 October 2019

Lost in Translation



This article was written by David Gaddes. All views and opinions are strictly his own.

I first started travelling on business in the early 1970’s. Readers of my occasional scribblings will know that I was fortunate enough to work then for a marvellous metal merchant and LME ring dealing member who gave me a wonderful apprenticeship in all aspects of the business over a ten year period. I had moved on from accounts to the shipping department and it was a tradition then that every young person who joined that department was sent to Rotterdam to see the forwarders and the warehouses where we stored our metals for onward distribution to customers. 

Some might say that is similar to a school trip to Boulogne but I would disagree. I found it fascinating watching the vessels being loaded and discharged at the docks in Rotterdam. Still do. For somebody who was eventually going to become a physical trader this was priceless experience. There is nothing like knowing the ins and outs of the logistics of the metal you trade. How it handles, how it is moved and above all the documentation that is required to do so for different destinations.

Now the word documentation leads me nicely to comment on the Brexit fears of nationals of different countries living and working all over Europe. I stopped listening to the scaremongering a long time ago, most of it conveyed by temporary politicians from the UK and Europe who have absolutely no idea if what they are telling us is going to come to pass or not. They simply do not know. I think that it was Robin Day, the famous political journalist, who coined the phrase “a transient here-today and, if I may say so, gone-tomorrow politician.” Quite.

So when I started to scribble this article I cast my mind back to that wonderful above mentioned company that trained me. It was London based. I tried to remember how many nationalities we had working in that office way before the evolution of the EU as we know it today.  I remembered ten. Ten different nationalities all working and living in London after completing the necessary applications to work in the UK.  One thing I do know is that whether the UK is in the EU or not people will always want to live and work in other countries and I am sure this will continue. It will just be a different document. A different form to fill in. 

Countries should maintain their identities. For me at that time the most delightful parts of travelling were the differences between the countries when the colours were brightest. It was a joy to experience all of the different languages, cultures, foods and currencies that made up Europe. Let us not forget that. It should not get lost in translation amongst the bureaucracy which is preparing the deal or lack of it. 

In closing I shall share with you a story about a Russian friend of mine with whom I worked with for many years. There was a vicious backwardation developing in LME nickel and we in London were desperate to know when the material would arrive. Moscow had earlier in the month prior nominated two possibly vessels with laycans two weeks apart upon which they might ship the material. Two weeks on a raging nickel backwardation can cause financial ruin.  Some of our customers needed an answer so they could plan salvation by warranting material. I called him and asked him which vessel the material would be shipped on and explained at length our predicament. I do not remember the names of the vessels now but I said something like “ Please can you tell me which vessel our material will be shipped on. It's critical I know. Will it be the mv Konstantin……or the mv Alexander ……?”  He replied: "Yes".

Maybe a lot of the negotiations on Brexit between the UK and the EU have been like that. The mind boggles at what exactly has been discussed over the last three years. Ho hum. Here today, gone tomorrow. 

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