Speaking Volumes

***** From the Exim News Service – Tuticorin, Feb. 27, 2006 —

“Govt envisages 276 ports in 20 years — Baalu

“The Union government proposes to set up 276 ports and 111 shipping units in the country at a cost of Rs 55,000 crore during the next 20 years, the Shipping, Transport and Highways Minister, Mr. T. R. Baalu, announced here.

“The National Maritime Development Policy (NMDP) document envisages an exponential increase in the handling capacity of ports, he pointed out. This would include enhancing the infrastructural facilities like inner harbour development and deepening of draughts at the ports.”

***** Then from Asia News, on March 3, 2006 —

“Singapore container port to double capacity.

“SINGAPORE, March 2 (Reuters) – Singapore, home to the world’s busiest container port, aims to double the capacity of its port by 2018 and wants to continue its foreign expansion after a failed bid for Britain’s P&O, state television reported on Thursday.

“Citing a junior minister, broadcaster ChannelNewsAsia reported that Singapore state-owned port operator PSA would increase its capacity to 50 million containers annually over the next 12 years from 23.2 million twenty-foot units (TEUs) in 2005.

“PSA, the world’s second biggest ports firm after Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa, last month withdrew from a $ 6.8 billion bidding war for UK-based ports and ferries group P&O and left the field to Gulf state-backed Dubai Ports World.

“‘Our terminal operators must continue to keep in close touch with the customers and remain responsive to their needs. For example, more shipping lines are now keen to co-invest in dedicated terminals to gain assurance of capacity. Our port operators must allow for this,’ Minister of State for Transport Lim Hwee Hua was quoted as saying in parliament.”

Instead of taking the time to consider the crushing effect this announced overseas expansion will have upon U.S. ports and supply routes in the coming years, politicians and news providers are more concerned with throwing brickbats and feathering their own nests in an embarrassing display of arrogance and ignorance. What will our harbors, highways and railroads look like when a 100 % increase in container volume arrives at our gateways? High-tech innovations, automation, and $ 222 billion bond proposals will bail us out … Right? You’re dreaming. Space, space, and more space, will be the only way to cope with the volumes headed our way, but space is what is no longer available in our primitive, conventionally-structured terminals. We’re missing the boat again.