Farrell Lines was a grand old US steamship company. It had an office in downtown Manhattan full of ship models and paintings of ships. Behind the receptionist, as you came in the door, there was a world map with chains of white lights showing the various trade routes served by Farrell Lines ships. The world was illuminated by the white lights across the Atlantic, Pacific, the Mediterranean and the Indian Oceans. As the company declined I recall the sense of both sadness and impending doom as fewer and fewer lights lit the globe.
P&O Nedlloyd bought what was left of Farrell in 2000 and Maersk acquired P&O Nedlloyd in 2005. This year Maersk revived the Farrell name for a company which operates US flag roll-on, roll-on, roll-off ships primarily under contract to the US government or in the coastal trade. So Farrell is again a US flag ship operator, even if as only a subsidiary of a Danish conglomerate.
Shipping is an international business and whose flag is on the stern does not really make that much difference except perhaps to those who seek employment at sea. It is easy to look back nostalgically at the old Farrell Lines and indeed the entire US linercompanies of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. To be fair, there are many good and sound reasons why US flag shipping collapsed, from an addiction to subsidies, to uneconomic cost structures, to a non-competitive tax regime. Sadly, US flag shipping is a bit like the cartoon character Pogo, who said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”