A Brief Opinion

There are a few other points that came to Judge Pellagrini’s attention while doing his homework, and a number of them had to do with developments and findings dating back to 1992.

1. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers argued that oil refiners would benefit the most because they could load more crude oil on their tankers for shipment to their refineries along the river, the biggest refiner, Sunoco, didn’t buy that argument, insisting that any savings to be gained would be offset by other costs. Officials stated that the company would have had to pay approximately $ 1 million annually to maintain the new 45-foot depth in their private channels, and that all other marine interests would be faced with similar costs. In meetings with the Corps, the Daily News reported that Sunoco officials had expressed “significant concern” about the economic benefits claimed by the Corps. A spokesman made it clear at those meetings that his company had no plans to bring in more crude even if the river was dredged.

2. In a letter to the Corps, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that, “We have seen no documentation that any of these facilities plan to dredge their private channels.” From a practical point of view, even at 45-feet, Philadelphia would still be a feeder port. New York would soon be at 50-feet, it was pointed out, and Baltimore and Norfolk were already at 50 and 55-feet respectively.

3. Responding to port officials concerns that the port would be put at a competitive disadvantage if the Delaware wasn’t dredged, industry observers pointed out that the real disadvantage was the fact that Philadelphia’s terminals are at least seven-hours upriver from the sea buoy, and that time and distance increases a cargo ship’s operating cost per voyage. New York, Baltimore and Norfolk, were not so disadvantaged, they added. When the Corps project manager stated that, “The transportation savings are there. It’s just like a highway. Build it and they will come”, a noted transportation consultant countered with the observation that port development was very expensive and that not every port would get the traffic it hoped to get. “It’s a very quick way to waste a lot of money”, he said.

4. When port officials invited a panel of leading industry consultants to discuss future trends in shipping, vessel size and the need to dredge the Delaware, the panel concluded that even at 45-feet, with adequate cranes and terminal facilities, and an efficient rail yard, “no one can guarantee that mega-containerships will ever call” at Philadelphia ports. “In the meantime”, the report concluded, “the port can accommodate the majority of the existing and newly constructed container ships that are in service today and in the foreseeable future”.

5. One of Philadelphia’s terminal operators now wooing unemployed longshoremen with the claim that “Dredging = Jobs” … 100,000 of them … wrote a letter to a port director a number of years ago. Dredging could bring additional cargo through the port, creating an economic impact of 695 direct jobs along with another 360 jobs created by business lured from other ports, he said back then.

[How those job openings grew from 695 and 360 to 100,000 today, however, he isn’t saying.]