Economic Engineering

Let’s stay on the subject of what we used to call “Short Sea Shipping”. That’s how the operation is still referred to in overseas inland waterways operations, but in this country the U.S. Department of Transportation has decided it should be called “U.S. Marine Highways”.

The DOT’s interest is a signal that the concept has been moved up to a front burner, even though no one has ever been able to figure out how to use the waterways profitably. Every attempt so far has failed and the reason for that lack of success is no secret. As we stated in our Art. 30 of this volume, Short Sea Shipping loses money because of the time spent in repeated loading and offloading operations in attempting to load and offload targeted containers.

Time and profit are the obvious fundamental issues, but if suitably sized, self-powered vessels could be made available and cargo handling could be expedited Short Sea Shipping operations would be highly profitable. Keeping up with the demand would then be the problem. But no one ever loses sleep over that kind of a problem.

One of these days, a Rip Van Winkle in Washington will wake up and realize that our patented container ship design is the only engine that could give a push to Short Sea Shipping. Our onboard system of rapid and automated storage and retrieval would guarantee the following benefits:

– At approximately 700 TEUs it would draw about six feet less water than the MV National Glory does and will permit access to more of the nation’s smaller ports.

– Our patented push-button method of storage and retrieval is a radical departure from today’s primitive and time-consuming container handling methods.

– While this rapid delivery system greatly increases profits for the shipping line, the line’s operating costs and the cost to the end user are dramatically reduced.

– The reduced amount of operating time would allow for a greater number of deliveries per trip and a greater number of annual trips as well.

– The demand for more of our efficient vessels would prop up failing shipyards and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. (Revitalized shipyards in the 1930s, you’ll recall, created millions of new jobs and brought a quick end to the Great Depression.)

– More jobs mean more paychecks. More paychecks restore lost buying power. Restored buying power equates to more demand, and more demand, of course, requires responses from manufacturers both in this country and abroad.

This happy progression of events might even come to the attention of sleeping leaders in Washington who might then see that, “Whoever builds ships, builds worlds”.