Designs on the Future

We ended Volume XIII by pointing out the advantages and, in fact, the need for a container ship that would provide the ultimate security against the evil intentions of so-called terrorists. The only vessel that could possibly fill the bill would be a container ship equipped with our patented shipboard storage and retrieval system. In a perfect world all container ships would be built, or retrofitted, with our systems and would save U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars now being spent in illogical and useless efforts to detect dangerous cargo after such cargo had arrived in our ports.

There’s no point in belaboring the security issue, even grammar school kids can see the logic. So let’s shift to some other advantages our patented shipboard systems would provide.

Last year David Tozer of Lloyd’s Register gave us some insight on the shipping industry’s capacity orientation toward a large number of mega-ships. We took note of the concerns he expressed.

• The lack of efficient, modern feeder tonnage poses a major threat to the container sector, he said, and could compromise the industry’s investment in new, large post-panamax capacity.
• Without proper investment, the lack of capacity could constrain demand and adversely impact on deep-sea vessel economics.
• Investment in smaller boxships and feeders has been at a markedly low level, to the extent that a serious demand scenario has developed at the lower end of the size spectrum.
• The clear need for modern, flexible feeder designs.
• The likelihood that feeder trades could potentially become one of the most important sectors for the container industry.
• The failure to recognize this opportunity, with the result that few orders have been placed.

We wondered back then if it were possible that the industry did indeed share Mr. Tozer’s concerns, but had no way of coming up with the changes in structure, design and deployment of the desired “modern, flexible feeder designs”.

If they knew of a way to come up with the “modern, flexible feeder designs”, wouldn’t it make sense to assume that investors and the industry would rush to embrace the opportunity to build and operate such a vessel, especially if the cost of construction was considerably lower than the cost of a mega-ship construction and operation, and if the flexibility of this new design was certain to generate a higher rate of return on their invested dollars?

Last week’s passage of HR 6 called for the Secretary of Transportation to “designate short sea transportation projects to be conducted under the program to mitigate landside congestion” and to encourage the development and expansion of vessels, terminals, shipper utilization and “marine transportation strategies by state and local governments.”

This legislation tells us: (1.) – Investors and the industry see the logic in Mr. Tozer’s concerns, and (2.)– That “modern, flexible feeder designs” are being sought. [We’re anxious to assist them.]