When the United States entered World War I, it undertook an unprecedented shipbuilding program. After the war, shipbuilders saw maritime trade decline through the 1920s as the coastal trade gave way to trains and trucks, and quotas restricted the once profitable immigrant trade. The Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company survived by performing non-maritime work, and relief did not come until the 1930s, when the federal government began ordering aircraft carriers to serve the dual purpose of strengthening the navy and providing jobs for the neighboring unemployed.
At the outbreak of World War II, Great Britain asked the U.S. to mass-produce an outdated English cargo ship that, despite its deficiencies, possessed the all-important advantage of simplicity of design. Thanks to new welding techniques, modular construction and parts produced in offsite facilities, the “Liberty” ship became the most copied vessel in maritime history. More than 2,700 were built – some in as little as two weeks – a remarkable feat under the direction of Henry Kaiser, who had never before built a vessel.
U.S. yards also produced 800 “Victory” ships – a faster, slightly larger and more economical cargo ship – as well as more than 300 tankers, and hundreds of warships. American shipbuilding capacity increased tenfold by war’s end, making the U.S. the world’s dominant maritime power.
Following World War II, the nation’s interest in maritime development again declined and emphasis was placed instead upon highways, factories and the aircraft manufacturing. During the 1950s, Japanese, European and Latin American shipbuilders outperformed American shipyards, and U.S. Atlantic passenger liners gave way to passenger jets, and although U.S. maritime interests pioneered the development of the highly economical container ship, construction of those vessels was ceded to foreign competitors. Despite technical advances by American designers, U.S. shipbuilding continued its decline because of waning public and private support.
Today, Korea, China, Japan and India build over 90 percent of the world’s commercial cargo vessels, while the U.S. share is barely 0.2 percent. Since 1992, in fact, U.S. yards have averaged fewer than nine new commercial ships per year. Aircraft carriers, submarines, guided-missile destroyers and frigates and a variety of support vessels are being built instead – although for no useful purpose other than to create jobs in “congressional districts”.
In years past, there were hundreds of productive U.S. shipyards, but as of this date we’re down to a total of about a half dozen major ones. We still enjoy an abundance of materials and engineering know-how – along with millions of skilled and unskilled unemployed – but what we don’t have is the support of the government to revitalize and support our once flourishing shipbuilding industry.
And we have something that no other country has. We have the worldwide patents for a container ship that “will revolutionize the world’s economy”. The simplicity and efficiencies in our design are obvious in our Home Page 3-D presentation. So, without foreign competition – and with the Jones Act and Title XI – why is this nation’s joblessness and economic tailspin allowed to continue?