Anchors Away

Now that we know something about the plans, and keels, being laid in Gujarat let’s take a look at how we’re using our shipbuilding capabilities. We can begin with the latest bit of news.

“SAN DIEGO, Dec. 12 / PRNewswire — General Dynamics NASSCO, a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Dynamics, today held a keel-laying ceremony for the fifth ship in the U.S. Navy’s T– AKE program. The ship is named USNS Robert E. Peary in honor of the former Navy Rear Admiral who was one of the first men to explore the Arctic circle …

“The Robert E. Peary is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command in the second quarter of 2008. When it joins the fleet, the ship’s primary mission will be to deliver food, ammunition, fuel and other provisions to combat ships at sea..”

[The USNS Robert E. Peary, of course, will be paid for by U.S. taxpayers.]

As we pointed out in yesterday’s commentary, South Korea’s shipbuilding industry was non-existent back in the early 1970s. Since then, however, Hyundai Heavy Industries alone has built more than 1,000 ships at its eye-popping 1,200 acre facility, and expected to complete 74 ships just in 2006, an industry record. Without winning another contract, Hyundai has enough orders (260) to keep busy for the next four years, and every one of these vessels will be paid for, not by Korean taxpayers, but by shipowners — who get their funds for such purchases from U.S. buyers who are now forced to purchase goods made in overseas manufacturing facilities, because that’s where our shut down manufacturing facilities have been transferred.

Can we do anything right? Listen to this:

“Horizon Lines Takes Delivery of First of Five New Vessels” [Horizon Lines, of course, is one of the largest Jones Act carriers — strictly American]

“CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 1 / PRNewswire — Horizon Lines announced today it took delivery of its first new containership, the Horizon Hunter from the Hyundai Mipo shipyard in South Korea. The Horizon Hunter is the first of five new, U.S.-flag, foreign-built, sister vessels that the Company is chartering from subsidiaries of Ship Finance International Limited under definitive long-term charters and related agreements closed on April 11, 2006. The gross tonnage of the vessels is 28,592 tons, they have a capacity of 2,824 TEUs, and are capable of a service speed of 23 knots …”

We’ve heard time and time again that our shipbuilding industry lost out to foreign interests because our wages were too high. But hold on a minute. Aren’t those the same size vessels that Akers-Philadelphia has been building for Mattson Lines, also a major Jones Act carrier? And aren’t those U.S. workers who are building those container ships in Philadelphia? With a little subsidizing here and a little subsidizing there, any one of our shipyards could have built — and sold at a profit — those vessels. [We subsidize the armed forces, don’t we?]