Go Fetch!

Someone offered the observation a week or so ago that as difficult as it may be to locate a large vessel on open water, locating a particular chassis in a 300-acre terminal facility can be almost impossible. In other words, terminal operations continue to be primitive. A half-century ago, in fact, it was much easier to locate a container, or a piece of equipment, because there was a lot less clutter in a yard.

So now we’ve gone “high-tech”. By resorting to tags, or transponders, or anything else that looks like rocket science, those in charge regularly point to upgrading measures in order that the operation can be made to appear almost workable. One system claims to cover 300 acres and enables the operators to locate equipment “within 10 feet of accuracy.” Primitive. The next step in today’s method of operation is to direct someone, in the right piece of equipment, to fetch the container, after someone in a more specialized piece of equipment has dug it out from the bottom of the stack in order to make it fetchable. After goodness knows how many moves have been involved, the container is presented to the waiting trucker, and we all know what the poor trucker has had to put up with in order to arrive at this tryst. Primitive.

Billions of dollars have been spent in order for terminals to progress to this stage of development. Progress?? The word “regress” more accurately describes the transformation. Cost, chaos, confusion, and congestion are the consequences of these enormous expenditures, and as the logjams increase in numbers and in size more demands are made for public funding in order to come up with still another idea. As long as the roll of the dice can be made with public funding, and as long as no group or association is in place demanding accountability, an elusive panacea will continually be sought. And why not? Regardless of the endeavor, it will always be funded by an unknowing public. Offers by the government to participate with port authorities in the funding of these frequent, but questionable projects, are pure and simple smoke screens. The public, the taxpayer, the end-user, the consumer are all one and the same … and the many failed efforts to provide cheaper goods from overseas to our cost-conscious consumers are leading our cost-conscious consumers to pauperism.

But the maritime authorities are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. This column has openly criticized the shortcomings within port operations, and has offered to make available a patented system for container storage, retrieval and delivery. A close examination of the initial pages in this website will convince embattled officials at every point in the supply chain that the panacea, if you will, is truly at hand, and at an affordable price. If this cure-all is not adopted within a reasonable period of time, the financial burdens carried by the consumer will obviate the purchasing power of that consumer, and Asian manufacturers will be looking elsewhere for a market. Take a minute to think about it. Just think of the consequences to the maritime industry. Think of the numbers that will be added to the ranks of the unemployed. The rippling effect will build to tsunami-like proportions.

Anybody wanna buy a “megaship”? Cheap?