Slam Dunk!

For a number of years the maritime industry has been predicting that as U.S. West Coast ports continue to become clogged by increasing cargo volumes, East Coast ports will become more attractive to shippers. Except for a lot of posturing and backyard brawls, however, little of any significance is taking place along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. By mid-July Maersk’s new terminal in Virginia will probably begin operating, and in another half-dozen years or so we might see something new in Jasper County, but that’s just about it.

The ‘Port of Philadelphia’? Forget about it. Dredging is all the talk in that locale. Nothing is being said about the exact amount of time and money it would take to dredge the proposed 108-mile Delaware River channel, and in truth, few job-seekers would listen anyway. Pie-in-the-sky is what they want to see on the menu, but crow is what they’ll likely get.

Look northward though, and see how quickly Canada reacts to developments in international trade. Population-wise, Canada is about one-tenth the size of the U.S., and although it’s short on people it’s not short on brains. Trident Holdings Inc. of Halifax is the lead company in a plan to build a container terminal at the Melford Industrial Reserve in Guysborough County on the mainland side of the Strait of Canso.

John Vickerman has been retained by Trident and has affirmed the frequently heard prediction that container cargo from the Indian subcontinent and from China will inundate East Coast ports and will exceed capacities by the year 2013.

According to Melford officials, preliminary viability and feasibility studies have been completed and follow up steps in permitting, detailed design and marketing are now being undertaken. Completion of the terminal’s initial phase is projected to be sometime in 2010, with this opening phase expected to handle between 1.5 million and 2 million TEUs annually.

Recall the words of Mr. Anthony Cooke just a few days ago. Mr. Cooke, the Chairman of London’s Baltic Exchange, said that “There aren’t enough ships to sustain the increase in demand and cargo operations”.

Following that advisory the Canadian group referred to above revealed its plans to build that new terminal on the Strait of Canso. Doesn’t it follow then, that more containers and more container terminals mean that more ships will be needed to carry those containers that are about to ‘inundate’ the East Coast ports of North America?

Even a grammar school youngster would figure that a shipbuilding program in these predictable circumstances would guarantee enormous dividends to shipbuilders and shipyards. They’d call it a ‘slam dunk’.

But Title XI remains in limbo.