Diminished Capacity

We grew accustomed to hearing about the more than 90 percent of world trade being transported by ocean-going vessels, and the 1,000-foot long container ships being delivered almost daily by Asian shipbuilders … and it was the truth.

And we recall seeing a study, published in the year 2000, where consultants projected that by the year 2040 the Port of NY/NJ would be handling 19 million TEUs annually … and it was fantasy.

Global shipping still probably accounts for more than 90 percent of world trade, but because volumes of cargo are diminishing by the day we don’t see many reports being issued nowadays by U.S. consultants. European and Asian observers are keeping us informed about the decline in this once formidable industry, however.

According to the London Times, global shipping rates are set to fall by 74 percent this year as commodity demand continues to fall in Asia and the massive glut of vessels ordered during the boom years finally takes to the seas. The expected collapse in rates, which could push dozens of shipowners close to bankruptcy, comes after a 92 percent decline in the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) of shipping rates over the course of the year. The misery is expected to continue well into 2010, with a further 15 percent drop in rates before any rebound brings relief to shipowners.

The closely watched gauge of world trade has fallen for 19 consecutive days, the same rate of decline that occurred after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the catastrophic freezing of trade finance. This stark warning of a continuing collapse in the BDI comes after industry predictions of multiple order cancellations by shipowners and forecasts that record numbers of vessels will be laid up.

Cancellations and lay-ups, however drastic, may not be enough to fight further alarming declines in freight rates. According to analysts, even if 40 percent of worldwide order books were cancelled this year, the slump in global demand and the sharp rise in Chinese inventories suggest that the worst is yet to come.

Despite China’s $ 586 billion massive infrastructure stimulus package, the pace of construction has slowed dramatically and the country’s exports of finished goods – the sort that used to fill container ships bound for the U.S. and Europe – continue to fall.

About 10 percent of the world’s 10,650 in-service container ships and bulk carriers are sitting empty and anchored, awaiting cargos that will never materialize. Furthermore, the idled fleet is expected to swell when Christmas shopping ends, and only the impact of extra slow steaming may offer temporary relief for the vessels remaining in service.

When people are being laid off and vessels are being laid up, and when analysts see nothing but a disastrous future for global trade, shouldn’t we be hearing the truth from officials instead of deliberately misleading references to “jobless recoveries”?

President Obama said last Monday that more U.S. jobs will be lost in the coming weeks and months but he stressed that the economy has recovered a lot of ground since he took office in January. He doesn’t provide details, however, so we’re supposed to take it on faith that things are on the upswing again. He knows that most of us aren’t keyed in on overseas advisories.

Speaking at a meeting of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the president said the current pace of job losses was “distressing” and the labor market would not improve quickly. He said the economy was beginning to stabilize after the deep slump that it entered amid a U.S. and global financial crisis but still it had a long way to go and that policymakers need to find new models for future growth. He said that he was confident that job growth will return once the economy is back on track. That’s how “jobless recoveries” work, you understand.

Neither the president nor anyone else is able to tell us how they can determine that the economy is “beginning to stabilize”. It’s all doublespeak. It’s sheer nonsense to speak of improvement in an economy when thousands are being dismissed from the work force every day.

And to assign the blame for our “deep slump” on a financial crisis is nowhere near the truth. There is no connection between the losses on Wall Street and the loss of U.S. jobs. Simply put, more than 35 years ago U.S. officials began surrendering U.S. jobs to overseas manufacturing facilities, thereby guaranteeing the eventual collapse of this nation’s economy.

By telling Americans that a “financial crisis” brought about today’s recession and job losses is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public, and this dissembling served as a convenient excuse to funnel stimulus funds to impoverished banksters and Wall Street hucksters.

The president also suggested that “policymakers need to find new models for future growth”. But those are the same “policymakers” that got us into this mess, and it’s becoming apparent that it’s not in their best interests to get us out. They need turmoil. They thrive on turmoil. They get rich off turmoil.

We’ve sent hundreds and hundreds of e-mails and faxes to those policymakers – including almost everyone in the administration and in Congress – explaining in detail how a new Emergency Shipbuilding Program would create millions of jobs in this country, and how the construction of our patented container ships in revitalized U.S. shipyards would bring this recession to a quick end.

We reminded them of an earlier economic collapse and the steps FDR took to deal with it. We also reminded them that efforts to reinforce the stock market, and efforts to upgrade the nation’s “infrastructure”by means of the WPA, were exercises in futility and that only the Emergency Shipbuilding Programs ended the economic decline.

We’ve received not a single response. Not even an acknowledgment.

Could it be that not enough “funding” would be directed to those in the top echelon? Could it be that too much “funding” would be directed to the truly impoverished? Heaven forbid.