Money to Burn

An article in the Virginia-Pilot last week announced the mid-July opening for APM Terminals’ $ 450 million cargo complex in Portsmouth, a facility described in the article as one of the country’s most technologically advanced terminals. Nothing was mentioned about air quality concerns, however.

$ 450 million is a lot of money to spend on a terminal, especially when a more efficient and more productive — but less “technologically advanced” one — can be erected for about one-tenth the price being quoted.

If, therefore, more efficiency and productivity … and little or no air pollution … can be had at a cost some $ 400 million less than the cost of the “technologically advanced” one, why not spend some time and effort to look into the methodology?

For starters, some of that $ 450 million was wasted on about 200 acres that the more efficient and more productive facility wouldn’t require.

Another example of wasteful spending is the 30 automated gantry cranes — described in the announcement as a “centerpiece of the complex”— each of which goes for maybe $ 2 million, give or take a few hundred thousand. But neither the actual cost of these vehicles nor the annual cost to maintain them is mentioned in the announcement. The more efficient and more productive facility we have in mind wouldn’t require the use of such a “centerpiece”. The cost is exorbitant for one thing, and the primitive modus operandi is another. Technologically advanced, yes — but primitive and wasteful nevertheless, like the thinking of those ‘consultants’ who endorse such extravagance.

And those “six giant blue cranes … that have dotted the skyline …”? Each is in the $ 8 to $ 12 million range, instead of the $ 3 to $ 4 million range such as the types that would be doing the job at our more efficient and more productive facilities.

Our patented mobile, high-density storage and retrieval systems do no ‘top-lifting’. Instead, electrically-powered fork trucks do all the container-handling. In our more efficient, productive and clean facilities each step in the operation would be uncomplicated and cost-efficient in every respect … all the while eliminating the pollution caused by busy gantry cranes and idling diesel trucks.

Those who spend other people’s money have no regard for the term “cost-efficient”, but in this case, isn’t that APM’s problem? Not at all. For those who think APM is Santa Claus, stop and think about it. APM wouldn’t spend one thin dime in Portsmouth unless a generous return on their money was chiseled in stone. Like any delivery operation … and that’s exactly what a carrier is … all costs are paid by the consumer. “All costs” include not just the price of those megaships being built so that ship owners (but not the consumers) can benefit from ‘economies of scale’ … “all costs” also include the billions of dollars needed to dredge U.S. ports, the billions of dollars needed to purchase the above-mentioned ‘technologically advanced’, but primitive, container handling equipment, and the billions of dollars needed to pay for the consequences of air pollution. [Do you feel foolish yet?]