The Chairman of London’s Baltic Exchange, Mr. Anthony Cooke, said that a global shipping crunch that has driven up freight rates was easing but remained a worry.

“There aren’t enough ships to sustain the increase in demand and cargo operations,” Mr. Cooke stated. “The freight rates will go down if there are more ships,” he added.

So what are we in the U.S. planning to do about it? We have no intention of getting back into the shipbuilding business … that’s for darn sure. Legislation that would enable U.S. shipbuilders to do so has been in place for many, many years, but too many elected officials have set their sights on other goals, with the result that the U.S. and its taxpayers have paid dearly for their unconscionable mismanagement.

Under the heading ‘General Information’, U.S. Maritime Administration literature that describes Title XI reads like this:

“The Program. established pursuant to Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act, 1936, as amended (Act), provides for a full faith and credit guarantee by the U.S. Government of debt obligations issued by (1) U.S. or foreign shipowners for the purpose of financing or refinancing either U.S. flag vessels or eligible export vessels constructed, reconstructed or reconditioned in U.S. shipyards and (2) U.S. shipyards for the purpose of financing advanced shipbuilding technology and modern shipbuilding technology (Technology) of a privately owned general shipyard facility located in the U.S. The Program is administered by the Secretary of Transportation acting by and through the Maritime Administrator (Secretary). Under the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, appropriations to cover the estimated costs of a project must be obtained prior to the issuance of any approvals for the Title XI financing.”

Under the heading ‘Purpose of Program’, it takes just two sentences to cover the whole deal:

“The primary purpose of the Program is to promote the growth and modernization of the U.S. merchant marine and U.S. shipyards. The Program enables owners of eligible vessels and eligible shipyards to obtain long-term financing with attractive terms.”

If those words mean what they say, Mr. Secretary, please explain to us why you stated last week that the above-described Program is “a form of corporate subsidy, and that shipowners and shipyards should rely on their own creditworthiness to obtain financing …” Where’s the subsidy?

With a simple stroke of a pen, any one of the last six or eight U.S. presidents could have saved our bacon by maintaining those remarkable shipyards that were the envy of every maritime nation.

We kowtow instead to those owners of foreign-built megaships by misdirecting billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to … dredging!