It’s About Time

Yes it’s about time, but it’s about space, too. The money has never been a problem, though, because there has always been plenty of it around by the sound of things. Just last week $ 28.9 billion was appropriated by the administration for security problems, and a sizeable chunk of that is destined for use in container yard operations. And several years ago, as a matter of fact, you may recall Chris Koch, CEO of the World Shipping Council, stating that an investment of more than $ 34 billion would be needed in order to expand the transportation infrastructure. Here are his exact words; “Liner shipping moves roughly two-thirds of the value of America’s international commerce, yet for most Americans, the industry is out of sight and out of mind … Another challenge is upgrading the nation’s transportation infrastructure to handle the forecast doubling of containerized trade by the end of the decade. It has been estimated that our industry must invest over $ 34 billion in additional operating assets to service this growth”.

No one in the industry flinched at Mr. Koch’s statement because the shortcomings that are plaguing the intermodal supply chain have been recognized, acknowledged, and acted upon in a variety of ways for the last decade. In fact the “Kipplinger Letter” of February 16, 2001, contained the following advisory:

[“Heavy investment in unsnarling cargo traffic is a sure thing in Uncle Sam’s next big funding bill, coming in ‘03. About 60% of $ 200 billion plus will be earmarked for projects all over the U.S. Aim is to smooth out the transfer and flow of cargo between ships, railcars, trucks, planes and intermodal connection points. Spending is seen as critical to productivity in the years ahead. Without breaking logjams where goods intersect, just-in-time deliveries and many other innovations intended to shave business costs won’t work.”]

Please note that the above forecast was given out months prior to the September 11th World Trade Center disaster. That unfortunate event put a much higher price on the cure-all for our supply chain delays and also assured that no longer would it be true that “ … for most Americans, the industry is out of sight and out of mind”. Not a day goes by that newspapers and TV channels fail to devote media time to events and even to documentaries about container ships, container yards, and the personnel that are concerned with the handling and delivery of containerized goods. Nor have political personages failed to notice how easy it has become to draw attention to themselves by involving themselves in transportation and security issues. Some 22 existing government agencies and an estimated 170,000 employees, in fact, have been transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. With so much attention being given to the plight of containerization, and with so many learned minds involved, and with so much funding available, what is our fretting about?

Oh, yes, that’s right. It’s about space, and it’s about time.