… if there was a need …

A few weeks ago the nation’s newspapers were covering the “Delaware River Deepening” dispute. Much was being said about the necessity of dredging the Delaware River to a depth of 45 feet in order to attract large container ships to terminals in the Philadelphia area because, proponents would have you believe, unless that 108-mile stretch of river was gouged to a depth of 45 feet, the projected economic boom would bypass the Philadelphia/Camden region, and 175,00 envisioned jobs would not materialize.

“Dredging = Jobs” was the slogan being used in web sites and in local newspapers..

Well-informed opponents of the dredging project knew better. Apart from the many varied and serious environmental concerns that were being publicized, we offered a half-dozen other reasons in our Vol. XI, Art. 22 commentary showing how and why dredging the Delaware was not just unnecessary but improbable.

Since then, we’ve been reminded that the USS New Jersey (BB-62) is now a Navy Memorial right across the river in Camden. We were on board that giant vessel during its service years and remembered being impressed by the enormous size (and displacement) of that proud ship. Not many container ships can match that vessel’s size, and let’s face it, not many container ships have a deeper draft. Nevertheless, the New Jersey managed to reach her berth in Camden without so much as scratching her keel.

Depth, we might mention, was never a problem in the Philadelphia/Camden region. During World War II, a sister ship of the New Jersey, the USS Illinois (BB-65), was scheduled to be built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, along with two of the much larger Montana-class battleships, but a thankful end to hostilities called for cancellation of the Navy’s battleship construction programs. If there had been any question at all about channel depth in the Delaware, these deep-draft vessels would never have been scheduled for construction in Philadelphia by the Navy Department.

Apparently, there’s no question about channel depth nowadays, either. One of the greatest vessels ever built, the SS United States, has been purchased by Norwegian Cruise Lines and is presently berthed at Philadelphia’s Pier 82. Affectionately called the “Big U”, we mentioned this fact in our Vol. XI, Art. 21 commentary, and now we’re wondering how in the world a ship of this size ever made it up the Delaware. Didn’t the folks at Philadelphia think to tell NCL that the river simply wasn’t deep enough to accommodate large vessels?

It’s time for some questions. Why weren’t Philadelphians told by the hired consultants that owners of large container ships wouldn’t permit such vessels to serve upriver ports? For that matter, why weren’t the folks told that most container ships in existence and presently under construction are small-to- mid-sized vessels like the Bahia Laura (3,752 TEUs) that Daewoo delivered to Hamburg Sud just last week? And why weren’t they advised that any number of these manageable vessels would happily serve the local terminals in the upper reaches of the Delaware …… if there was a need?