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Today's Feature

 

'We saw it happen' - Sea-Land veterans gather in Hong Kong to talk of old time 'boxing'

1658

BACK in the 1960s, talk was of revolution. The Chinese Cultural Revolution, the fashion revolution from London's Carnaby Street while the streets of San Fransciso, Paris and Prague seethed with riot and revolutionary fervor.

Unnoticed by these all but forgotten revolutionaries was another revolution taking place in their midst - the Container Revolution. More than a passing fashion, or a fashionable political enthusiasm, this revolution would change life as we know it by making things possible that had not been possible before

This was "Box that Changed the World" as one book title put it. And last week 40 veterans of the company that started it all, Sea-Land, gathered at Hong Kong's Maritime Museum celebrate their lives and its achievements.

Byron Lee, now managing director CGL Flying Fish Logistics (Shanghai), hoped their story would inspire the young to innovate and seize opportunities as they themselves had done decades ago.

Dick McGregor, now retired to Charlotte, North Carolina, but active on the board of leapfrogpos.com "point of sale solutions on demand", rose to become Sea-Land's head of global sales.

The way the old hands talk, it seems that the full glory days began to fade when the CSX railway took over the company in 1986, while others say the trouble began when RJ Reynolds took over before that.

It was then that the new bosses "weren't listening to the music" as World-Link consultancy chief Alan Goldstein put it, by which he meant the local ways of doing things instead of depending on top down command practices.

"And when that didn't work, they replaced locals with their friends and that didn't work either. Things went down hill from there," he said.

Mr McGregor put it to the CSX takeover in 1986, saying the railway and the shipping company, were not a good fit. When someone suggested the "rhythms were different", he accepted it readily.

"At some point Wall Street said you have masses of assets, railway equipment and ships, but you should be getting more out if it," he said.

 

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