A Case of Mistaken Identity

The stunning headlines leaped out, “Quincy port ready – and waiting – for business”. After so many failed efforts and bitter litigation, this once proud facility will now rise from its ashes and reclaim its prominent position in the maritime world. Quincy … for most of the Twentieth Century, home of Bethlehem Steel’s and General Dynamic’s Fore River Shipyard, one of the most prolific and best known shipbuilding sites in the entire world. Few people are aware of it, but the shipyard was founded in 1884 by Thomas A. Watson, the same Thomas A. Watson who answered Alexander Graham Bell’s first phone call. “Mr. Watson, come in here, I want you,” were the famous words that inaugurated the fantastic world of telecommunications. Mr. Watson’s shipyard launched its first vessel in 1884 and followed up with a thousand more in the next hundred years. The largest schooner ever built, the seven-masted Thomas W. Lawson, was built at Fore River, and the Navy’s first nuclear-powered surface ships were built there in the early 60’s. The earliest LNG tankers ( 10 of them) were built in the 70’s, and what is probably the largest Gantry Crane in the world, the 1200-ton “Goliath” still dominates the skyline.

Nowadays the folks in New England are more familiar with the names of two local men who’ve contested for the ownership rights of this shuttered shipyard. Messrs. Jay Cashman and Dan Quirk, both highly respected and successful businessmen, along with the U.S. Maritime Administration, have been involved in a long and drawn out court battle to determine who should be awarded ownership rights. It appears as though a decision, or at least some sort of an agreement has been reached, and this ideal setting will now come to the rescue of the many thousands of New Englanders, merchants and consumers alike, who’ve been forced to incur the additional costs of overland transportation of their imported goods from the Ports of Halifax and NY/NJ. A container yard is the perfect solution to the legal standoff as well as to the community’s financial drain and unemployment problems, and the six-state New England region owes its undying gratitude to the compromising nature of these two astute businessmen.

According to the newspaper summary, the “Port of Quincy’s new rail yard is ready to move millions of dollars worth of agriculture to overseas markets through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma”. Wait a minute … that doesn’t sound right. But the story goes on to say, “Supporters are hoping the facility, which is more than 150 miles from Puget Sound …”. No. They have it all wrong. That’s a misprint. Everyone knows that the City of Quincy and the Fore River Shipyard are right on the Atlantic Ocean! This typo on the part of reporter Brad Wong should have been caught by the editor of the … of the … Seattle Post – Intelligencer?? This story is about a town by the name of “Quincy”, in Eastern Washington? Not the “Quincy” in Massachusetts? And it isn’t about the desperately needed container terminal outside Boston’s bedlam? But it seemed so logical. It was a dream come true. But wishful thinking and jumping to conclusions are natural bedfellows, sorry to say. Well, maybe someday the neglected folks in the great New England states will be recipients of the much sought- after benefits that those in the great state of Washington are recognizing and are about to enjoy.

When you come right down to it, Quincy’s loss is Quincy’s gain.