Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

One more band-aid on a badly bleeding wound is being offered to hard-pressed container terminals. The announcement came from Los Angeles (where else?) in the form of a press release in last Tuesday’s “Financial News”, and it began with this bold headline:

“White Paper Discusses Reducing Fuel Consumption Through Use of Flywheel Energy Storage System”

“Port operators around the world are actively searching for ways to reduce the amount of diesel fuel used in running Rubber Tired Gantry (RTG) cranes,” the report began. “ The need is spurred by the increasing cost of fuel and the global concern for the reduction of greenhouse gasses.

“A new white paper released by VYCON, in conjunction with Yantian International Container Terminal (YICT) in Shenzhen, China, and Hutchinson Port Holdings in Hong Kong, presents the findings of a three phase test to determine the amount of fuel savings realized by utilizing VYCON’s REGEN flywheel energy storage system on a typical RTG crane. The REGEN System is a technology that when installed on a RTG crane, creates a hybrid power system by capturing the regenerated energy from the hoist cycle. Testing confirmed considerable fuel savings under operating conditions which should provide port operators positive, validated data to employ the REGEN System on both retro-fit and new crane applications.

“‘We are very satisfied with the REGEN test results reported to us at YITC and Hutchison in a real world situation,’ said Frank DeLattre, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at VYCON. ‘These tests validate our flywheel energy technology and the benefits it can provide to terminal operators around the world that are struggling with the increased cost of fuel and the pressure to reduce emissions.’”

So there you have it. The part about the “Port operators around the world … actively searching for ways”…, however, doesn’t really ring true. If port operators were sincerely interested in operating efficiently they’d simply adopt the conventional racking method utilized in hundreds of thousands of warehouses around the world. This sensible, efficient warehousing method has been around long before any of them saw the light of day, so why don’t they use it? It’s too uncomplicated, that’s why. Problems, you see, require endless searching and endless funding, and unless millions (billions?) of dollars are passing through their hands on a regular, but unregulated, basis, what chance would they have of commanding high salaries and amassing personal fortunes?

Of course if that supposition is entirely false, and if “Port operators around the world …” are really and truly above suspicion, then it must be that they’re just plain stupid. What else are we to think?

[RTGs cost millions of dollars, by the way, and focusing on paltry fuel savings for these monstrous machines instead of turning to the proven and much, much less costly method of warehousing makes one wonder, though, doesn’t it?]