It’s just asinine!

Up where cooler heads usually prevail, a Halifax senator was forced to back away from his controversial opinion that increasing traffic at the Port of Halifax should be the priority before looking at the possibility of building other container terminals in Canada’s Eastern Provinces.

In the opinion of another Canadian lawmaker, however, the Halifax senator’s stand … to forego construction of two new terminals so that the capacity of the Port of Halifax could be increased … wasn’t merely controversial. Building just one of those terminals, the lawmaker told the senator, will likely mean an additional 500 jobs to the local economy, along with some 2,275 support jobs, and to ignore this beneficial aspect of container terminal construction in any locality, he said, would be “just asinine”. The subdued senator sensibly softened his stance.

So what about the U.S. Western States? Aren’t some folks in Southern California ignoring the beneficial aspects container terminals would bring to other West Coast ports? Well, yes they are. And aren’t they hung up on the idea that everything … yes, everything … should be jammed into their own LA/Long Beach port complex, regardless of the many adverse consequences? Yes again. Doesn’t it follow then that this stand … this hang-up … should also be considered “just asinine”? Yes, asinine. And costly as well. Especially when considering the number of jobs being forfeited.

In order to discern the economic impact in terms of jobs directly and indirectly related to port activities, a study was completed by a national consulting firm for the North Carolina State Ports Authority. What the study showed was that maritime activity in Morehead City and in Wilmington in 2005 directly and indirectly supported 85,000 jobs and generated about $ 300 million annually in state and local tax revenues.

But of that 85,000 number employed, the study showed, only 5,000 of those positions were taken up by longshoremen, trucking companies, and other maritime related activities. The other 80,000 jobs were found in the many varied businesses throughout the state that owed their existence mainly to those two container ports. What all these businesses have in common is that in order to operate and be profitable, they need the momentum provided by those two maritime economic engines. Those ports provide those firms with access to the global markets where their products are sold and where much-needed raw materials originate.

It’s no secret that the U.S. West Coast labor market will pay a severe price because of intransigent port officials out there. The container port project at Punta Colonet, in Mexico, will cover some 7,000 acres and is intended to handle 8 million TEUs annually. Only one hundred fifty miles from the border, that new port will take a big chunk of the volume currently handled by the LA/Long Beach complex, and even though that reduction in volume will undoubtedly be seen as a relief for distressed local residents, the down side is that several hundred thousand job opportunities in and around the ignored U.S. West Coast ports will never be created.

Now that’s what’s really “just asinine”.