No Stern Untoned

Sometime back in 2003, Mr. Norman Y. Mineta, who was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation back then, stated that of the 361 ports in the U.S., only 60 were equipped to handle containers. He predicted that another 200 ports could be handling containers in the years to come, and he pointed out that by offloading container ships at ports closer to end users, instead of at distant “king ports”, the industry would reduce traffic congestion, vehicle pollution, and across-the-board expenses for the taxpayer/consumer. Smaller, shallow draft ships, readily available at revitalized U.S. shipyards (Title XI), could service these conveniently located ports, and no costly dredging would be required. He foresaw a win-win scenario. So did we.

We had been pushing our patented, low-cost, efficient, storage and retrieval systems and the Secretary’s words were music to our ears. Here’s what our systems would do:
– Allow ships unhampered access to and from preassigned berths,
– Provide for quick and efficient servicing of these vessels by longshoremen,
– Eliminate expensive container handling equipment,
– Scan 100% of containers and position each in a preassigned slot.
– Require no moving or repositioning of containers prior to retrieval and delivery,
– Establish an in-house, programmed delivery system by salaried drivers,
– Eliminate “gates”,
– Eliminate traffic tie-ups within terminals and in surrounding communities,
– Ease the burden on truck drivers and on railroads,
– Increase profits for terminal operators, port authorities and shipping lines,
– Eliminate the need for taxpayer-funded dredging,
– Reduce costs to the end users,
– Create employment opportunities presently restricted by cramped operations,
– Create employment opportunities in the additional 200 container ports,
– Promote the development of short-sea shipping,
– Revive U.S. shipbuilding and the construction of Jones Act ships and barges,
– Create employment opportunities in revitalized U.S. shipyards.

No stone would be left unturned. Not only would business entities benefit by the ability to expand and embrace new opportunities, but the various unions would also see unexpected and unopposed growth and influence in that unusually favorable atmosphere. That was his win-win scenario.

Almost ten years have passed since Secretary Mineta issued those predictions, but authorities are still stacking instead of racking. They live in the dark ages because they’re accountable to no one.

We asked a prominent warehouse operator one day why he spent money on racks instead of just stacking his goods one atop the other. “Are you nuts?, he asked.

We assured him that we supported his more rational (and profitable) method of operation, but that we knew of about 60 chaotic locations where the inmates were surely running the asylum.