More “Spruce Gooses” and B-19s?

Katherine Yung had a story in the Dallas Morning News a year or so ago, and we referred to it from time to time. We’ve been criticizing the illogical preference of overseas shipbuilders and ship owners for giant container ships, and Katherine’s column listed some drawbacks that warrant some serious consideration.

This is what she called to the attention of her readers:

• These new giants consume 20 tons more of diesel fuel per day than the next biggest carriers. That 20 tons per day of diesel fuel translates into an additional 44,000 gallons.

• It takes 15 to 20 minutes to bring a ship of this size to a stop, which adds almost an extra half hour to every maneuver.

• These giant vessels can be brought into port only during daylight hours and only when the wind is less than 10 knots.

• Only three U.S. ports — Long Beach, Oakland and Seattle — can handle these mega-ships.

• These behemoths cannot pass through the Panama Canal.

• Four to five days, instead of the usual two or three, are needed to unload these ships.

• They require the use of taller, bigger and more expensive cranes than those found in most ports.

• They require longer and wider berthing spaces than those available in most ports.

• They force major railroads to make adjustments, such as running longer trains on nonstop routes across the West.

• If, as Katherine speculates, “In the next few years, all these ports will be overrun by these ships”, enormous amounts of funding will be required for dredging, berth expansion, equipment upgrading, bridge and highway replacements projects, and so on and so forth.

Who’ll pay for all this? Certainly not those foreign entities who are benefitting from this shipbuilding trend. The U.S. taxpayer/consumer who saw his/her job shifted to overseas manufacturing facilities, and who is now expected to purchase all those foreign-made goods, are the ones who’ll be expected to foot the bill. But … and it’s a big but … how are those foreign-made products to be purchased by unemployed U.S. consumers who no longer will have the wherewithal? Inevitable losers in this fiasco will be both the U.S. taxpayers/consumers and the owners of those soon-to-be moth-balled mega-ships. The only winners will be those who invest in “mothballs”.