Feeding Lines

Yesterday’s Boston Globe reported that the “Massachusetts Port Authority is hoping a new, short-haul cargo service between Boston and Halifax, Nova Scotia, will help open a ‘marine highway’ of small ships hauling scrap, raw materials, and manufactured goods to ports up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

“Later this week,” the report went on, “American Feeder Lines Holding LLP – a New York shipping company that plans to have a small armada of so-called feeder cargo ships steaming along the East and Gulf coasts – will launch its ‘New England – Halifax Shuttle.’ The weekly service will connect Boston, Portland, Maine, and Halifax via a small container ship that will unload imports from China and other countries in each of the three ports and deliver U.S. goods for export to foreign markets.

“The Boston – Halifax shuttle is considered a pilot for US government efforts to create a feeder system of small cargo ships, hopping from one port to another along what would essentially become marine highways off the nation’s coasts. When huge container ships arrive from Asia or Europe, the cargo would be off-loaded onto these smaller vessels instead of trucks or trains.

“The goals: reducing reliance on heavy trucks on overburdened roadways; cutting energy consumption and transportation costs; and improving security by having more US-flagged ships hauling products in and out of US ports.

“‘It’s something that’s already being done in Europe,’ said Percy Pyne IV, chairman of American Feeder Lines. ‘This is a tremendous opportunity. It’s something I’ve wanted to see happen for a long time.’…

“The AFL New England, a 16-year- old German-made diesel ship, is small compared with other cargo ships, capable of holding only 400 shipping containers …

“Massport has tried feeder services before, but two previous attempts failed … Michael Leone, port director for Massport … expressed confidence that American Feeder Lines will succeed where others failed, largely because of the experience of its executives and deep pockets of its investors. Pyne wouldn’t say how much is invested in American Feeder Lines.” –

All this baloney is for public consumption. It’s also supposed to impress the folks that are being asked to put up the money for ten 1,300-TEU container ships that those “experienced executives” have asked Aker Philadelphia Shipyard and Bay Shipbuilding to build for them – at $ 70 million-a-pop. But it ain’t gonna happen. Investors are the real “experienced” ones, and they recall that just a little more than a year ago, Columbia Coastal had to throw in the towel mainly because cumbersome, time-consuming and primitive methods of loading and offloading conventional container ships couldn’t compete with low-cost trucking operations.

Not a dime has been raised, and that’s why Mr. Pyne won’t “say how much is invested”.