On Our Front Burner

About two months ago we read about the results of a study by a Rhode Island legislative commission promoting Narragansett Bay’s maritime potential. Development of port infrastructure and expansion of maritime industries, according to the commission, could generate thousands of jobs and increase personal incomes, business revenues and state and local taxes.

The commission also recommended participation in America’s Marine Highway Program (Short Sea Shipping), and further development at Davisville, the old SeaBee base.

– We were pushing the Bay’s development way back in 2005 (Vol. III, Art. 29). We contacted a number of officials in that State but couldn’t get to first base with them. When we discussed the employment opportunities and the profit potential of a container port in Davisville, they scoffed at our proposal. They were only concerned about the “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) voting bloc. In other words, “Hooray for me, and …etc.”

Then last month we read about a port seminar in Long Beach where Peter Friedman, the executive of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, pointed out – to those who wear blinders every day – that delays at container terminals, because of “congestion, low productivity, and holds placed on containers by government regulatory agencies,” result in the loss of business opportunities.

He also complained about – would you believe it – the PierPass “traffic mitigation fee” of $ 120 per 40-foot container when those containers are trucked during daytime hours. Mr. Friedman reminded his listeners that agricultural exports don’t always have the option to ship at night, so many of them avoid the two Southern California ports because of that fee.

– In more than a dozen of our early commentaries, (beginning on November 12th, 2004, in Volume 1) we panned PierPass and the wrongful imposition of those so-called “fees”. We rightfully termed them “fines”, and told how unnecessary they would be if port officials eliminated their congestion and pollution problems by utilizing our patented container terminal design. Those “fees” are now costing our farmers millions of dollars every year. ‘Way to go, Mr. Wargo.

And last week we read that American Feeder Lines is going out of business. The plan was to setup Short Sea Shipping services from Halifax to Galveston, using a conventionally-structured 700-TEU container ship. As everyone knows, time means money, and because it takes so much time to store and retrieve containers on primitive, conventionally-structured container ships, the investors could no longer eat the financial losses. None of their predecessors could either. But Short Sea Shipping will be one of the most profitable ventures in U.S. maritime history and several attempts have been made to cash in on its potential. For years the U.S. Department of Transportation has been aware of that potential, and because time is money, they’ve even moved the concept to a front burner.

– It’s on our front burner, too, and we wrote it up just the other day in Art. 11 of this Volume.