Economics 101 …

Let’s see now. How many 2,500 TEU-sized container ships could we build with, let’s say, $ 65 billion? In “How times have changed”, (Vol. VII, Art. 2), we learned that U.S. shipyards, starting from scratch, delivered 5,150 vessels to the U.S. Navy in the years 1941 to 1944. That was no mean feat by any standards because the differing sizes and functions of those ships called for extraordinary designs as well as large expenditures of time and money. Building “cupcake” container ships, on the other hand, will be nowhere near as complicated. We wouldn’t be starting from scratch, for one thing, and by using the same “economies-of-scale” concept that is being bandied about, we could get a lot of mileage out of that $ 65 billion.

• At a very generous $ 100 million/ship price, U.S. shipyards could build 650 container ships for that $ 65 billion.
• That would mean that those 650 vessels would have to be delivered at a rate of about 13-a-month over a four-year period. (Boysie Bollinger could do that all by himself.)
• When one considers, however, that NASSCO, Aker-Philadelphia, Newport News and Pascagoula are already in a position to “hit the ground running” with this shipbuilding program, dozens and dozens of ships could be delivered every month and all our container ship needs would quickly be fulfilled. (Remember now, we’d be dealing with the crisis with the same resolve that the WW II generation did.)
• The nationwide program would provide training and employment for at least 100,000 additional workers in the shipbuilding trades … a boon for the Navy as well … and would require a like amount of Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Seamen to man the vessels.
• Just think of it. Billions of dollars annually would be paid as incomes to U.S. workers rather than to foreign workers. That fact alone would justify the proposed shipbuilding program.
• Instead of requiring the U.S. taxpayer to fund the construction of “carrier groups” for the world’s lone super power, us … a clear example of “overkill” … we’d be using those funds in a more profitable manner. Where warships require an expenditure, or purchase, on the part of taxpayers, with no financial return in any way, shape or form, container ships, on the other hand, would be sold by U.S. taxpayers to shipping lines, and enormous profits and/or savings would be realized at every level.
• Let’s not forget that another few dozen of our under-utilized seaports would be retrofitted with container handling terminals to handle our manageable vessels (as Secretary Mineta has already predicted) and thousands of additional employment opportunities would be created.
• These smaller ports would relieve the unconscionable pressures placed upon the “hub-ports” that have been established by our leading lights, and the need for expensive infrastructure upgrading at these overburdened port communities would thereupon be obviated.
• And let’s not forget about the waterfront acreage that would be released at our existing crowded container ports by the installation of our patented container storage and retrieval systems. We’d be restoring much of the natural beauty that rambling, conventionally-structured container yards have taken from our harbor communities.

Do you see any flaws in this multi-faceted program? Then what are we waiting for? Another 1929?