Dredging Pockets

1. This was Paul Goldin’s 3 Oct 2011 article on IFW:

“Congress must accelerate funding for improvements as Panama Canal expansion nears completion,” is how the article began. “The expansion of the Panama Canal,” Paul wrote, “is expected to significantly increase vessel numbers and sizes calling at US east coast ports, but Paul Anderson, CEO of Florida’s Jacksonville Port Authority (Jaxport), has warned that ports are not ready.

“US ports will not be able to accommodate all the ships wanting to call on the east coast – small, medium and post-panamax, Anderson told the US Maritime Administration.

“He believes the primary issue is gridlock in Congress, which is delaying investments to improve US seaport infrastructure.

“If the necessary port upgrades don’t happen, Anderson said, transhipment from off-shore locations such as the Bahamas will threaten US port business, add costs to US imports and slow down transit times.

“Anderson told IFW that Jaxport was waiting on federal funding of up to $ 600 million to continue a dredging project, and the delay was limiting productivity of the port’s new TraPac Container terminal, its first to win a direct service to Asia.

“Nancy Rubin, Director of Communications for Jaxport, said: ‘TraPac is operating at just under 100,000 containers a year. After the Panama Canal expansion, we should be seeing at least triple that by 2015.’

“‘And operating at full capacity, of about 800,000 containers, economists estimate about a billion-dollar-a-year impact from the TraPac terminal. So we are talking a loss of significant positive economic activity without federal commitment.’ she added.

“In addition, Korean shipping line Hanjin has put building a new $ 200 million east coast hub on hold, pending the federal funding for Jaxport. The Hanjin project would add another $ 1 billion a year to the region’s economy.

“‘Together, these two terminals would triple our capacity to handle containers, triple the economic impact annually and triple the employment opportunities in all related industries,’ Rubin said.” –
One has to wonder if these port officials have even the vaguest idea about what is happening around the world. Do they honestly believe that huge containerships, laden with millions (billions?) of dollars of goods from overseas factories, will be streaming into east coast ports and off-loading their precious cargos? Don’t they realize that joblessness is keeping most Americans out of our shopping centers, and that there is no demand for – and no way to pay for – imported goods?

Either these officials are among the superficially educated and tragically uninformed – or they are trying to con the government (read: the consumers and taxpayers) into funneling huge amounts of money into their coffers. They’ve put themselves on the horns of a dilemma and we should demand an answer from those highly-paid officials.

“Superficially educated and tragically uninformed” is just another way of saying “stupid”. They won’t admit to that, of course, and on our part we should at least give them the benefit of the doubt. Six-figure salaries are not generally doled out to the simply ignorant. That leads us, then, to the inevitable conclusion that this is another con job. Whenever the Panama Canal is being mentioned in connection with massive dredging projects, federal funding and East Coast port officials, Panama’s Senor Sponge comes immediately to mind, and you know that the lot of them are up to no good. We covered some earlier political shenanigans in Vol. XIV, Art. 17, as you may recall.
So where does that leave these folks? Between a rock and a hard place, that’s where.

2. This is from Cargo Business News on 10/6/2011:

“South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control posted a notice on its website on Friday denying the Army Corps of Engineers a permit to deepen 32 miles of the Savannah River by 8 feet over concerns the dredging would harm the river’s ecosystem.

“‘After reviewing the project plans, staff of the Division of Water Quality determined that there is not a reasonable assurance that the project will be conducted in a manner consistent with the certification requirements of Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act,’ the DHEC’s notice said.

“The Georgia Ports Authority $ 600 million dredging project now faces a challenge as it readies for the impending widening of the Panama Canal and the projected larger ships from Asia expected to transit eastward to ports on the Atlantic seaboard in the next three-four years …” –

3. But Maerk, the carrier that will be operating all those leviathans, let the cat out of the bag:

“COPENHAGEN, (Reuters) – The world’s biggest container shipping company, Maersk Line, is confident its order for 20 giant new vessels will not spoil the market and only a few rivals will order such ships, a senior Maersk executive said. Maersk Line, a unit of Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk, has ordered 20 of the new Triple-E class vessels from South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd. The first of the vessels with capacity for 18,000 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers are due to be delivered in July 2013 and the last in mid-2015, and some analysts warn the capacity expansion could flood the market. The ships will serve on Asia-Europe routes …” –

Well, if Maersk has no intention of sending these ships to “Atlantic seaboard” ports via the Panama Canal – and if cooler heads have denied permission to dredge the Savannah River – and if there could never be a demand for those “800,000 containers” because everyone is broke … could it be that funds being requested for dredging are intended for other than the stated purpose?

[Take another look at Vol. XIV, Art. 17.]