Phace the Phacts!

Let’s dwell on “port productivity” a while longer.

Remember what Tommy Stramer was warning us about? “If changes can be made in such a way as to allow a higher turnover of containers in ports – coupled with the ability to transport these boxes to inland destinations – then our industry will survive,” was the way he put it.

“Otherwise, we are going to see ports, more so on the West Coast of the U.S., but also on the East Coast, approach the point where cargo will not be able to go through them, ships will wait outside, schedules will no longer be maintained, and the new ships of 8,000-TEUs-plus will be just another white elephant in the industry.” What a smart guy Tommy was … too bad his words of wisdom are being ignored.

He hit the nail right on the head though. A few days ago we were writing about Gary Ferrulli’s observations with respect to the problems that are in evidence at those West Coast ports Tommy was talking about. The low rate of 24 lifts-per-hour in those ports is a direct result of terminal congestion, not inefficient crane operators. Those very capable operators could easily maintain a 35-40 lift-per-hour rate if terminal and trucking operations weren’t backed up in front of them. Maybe ‘fouled up’ is a better way to describe the chaos in and around U.S. terminals, because declining “port productivity” is now becoming a very serious problem.

Meanwhile, over on the East Coast we have a group of pholks in Philly with their heads in the sand. They just don’t get it. Less than a hundred miles away, traffic conditions have become intolerable because terminals at the Port of NY/NJ are pushing through 3,000 to 4,000 TEUs annually.

Unmindful of this inanity, the phellas in Philly are promoting the idea that “Southport”, their pipedream, will actually handle similar numbers, without a hitch … as soon as 108 miles of the Delaware River can be dredged to make way for ocean-going leviathans. They’re not at all concerned with the consequent chaos to Philadelphia residents and commuters. Inanity? Insanity!

Hasn’t Governor Rendell been advised yet:
• that an APL official has publicly stated that terminals servicing megaships need to be located near shipping lanes, and not 100 miles from the sea as is the case with “Southport”?
• that 108 miles of dredged sludge and slime would require about 85,000 acres of disposal sites throughout Pennsylvania communities?
• that the cost to dredge the 108-mile channel would be in the billions of dollars?
• that the cost to transport this spoil would exceed even the cost of that dredging operation?
• that Cmdr Jon Helmick, Conrad Everhard, James Hartung, Neil Davidson, Nolan Gimpel, Mark Page, and yes, even Tommy Stramer, have pooh-poohed the idea of “hub-and-spoke” ports and megaship providers?

This is a classic case of the blind leading the blind.