Take a Closer Look
Short Sea Shipping, America’s Marine Highway Program, or whatever you want to call it, has always been a dream, and always will be a dream unless the proper steps are taken to overcome the serious drawbacks in conventional container handling methods.
A number of vessels have been put into service over the past forty years or so in attempts to grab the elusive gold ring, but all have failed. Further attempts will be made – you can bet on it – because all in the industry know that the payoff for a successful venture in shortsea shipping will exceed their wildest dreams.
That gold ring seduced a number of vessels in the recent past, including the ill-fated Berglind in the mid-seventies, followed by the Zim Atlantic and the Zim Northland.
Also in the mid-seventies, Searoad’s Grey Master took a shot at the impossible dream, but discontinued operations in a matter of months. And the Yankee Clipper, in the eighties, made a lengthy and costly run before it eventually threw in the towel.
Early in June of 2011 – a year or so after still another failed effort, this time by Columbia Coastal – the Boston Globe announced that American Feeder Lines Holding LLP, (AFL), a New York shipping company, planned to have a “small armada” of cargo feeder ships steaming along the East and Gulf coasts. If the company could attract some $ 700 million from investors, the report stated, then that “small armada” could be built in U.S. shipyards. Until then, AFL intended to begin operations with a German-built ship, which would be renamed “AFL New England”.
“It will be interesting to see if this operation ever gets off the ground,” we commented. So far, it must be noted, nothing else has been heard from AFL – which means that AFL is still looking for that $ 700 million donation. Ooops! We meant to say, investment.
The above futile attempts are clear evidence that there’s a pot of gold waiting for the ones who can make short sea shipping fly, and no one seems to be more convinced of it than the folks at MARAD. At least that’s what those folks want us to believe. In mid-December of 2011, a press release revealed that MARAD had requested, received, and was evaluating eleven designs for small container ships to be used on America’s Marine Highways.
“These designs are a road-map to a brighter future for the men and women who serve our nation at sea,” said U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. “By bringing cutting-edge technology to America’s maritime workforce, our country can be a global leader in shipbuilding.”
“This is another step in helping America’s Marine Highways move our economy and relieve congestion on our roads,” said U.S, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The U.S. maritime industry is vital to our economy and to our security. These vessel designs will bolster both in a way that maximizes efficiency while minimizing environmental impact,” he stated.
Sounds good, until you take a closer look at this press release – like we did in our Vol. XXIX, Art. 32 commentary.
“The U.S. Maritime Administration,” we wrote, “says that it has released a report detailing new designs for shipping vessels specifically engineered for America’s Marine Highways. Unfortunately, a link provided to the report by MARAD actually leads only to the ship designs themselves, which appear to have been created by Herbert Engineering.”
[After reading this press release we looked everywhere for an indication that MARAD had published a request for such “new designs,” but we came up empty. So how come Herbert Engineering knew about it, we wondered. It was another sweetheart deal, that’s how come.]
Our commentary continued: “There is no information on what might induce any shipowner to order any of them, how they might be paid for or, for that matter, what they might cost. However, a press release does say that MARAD has also signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Navy under which MARAD and the Navy could provide up to $ 800,000 to advance two or three of these new concept designs to the next stage of development, with the ultimate goal of constructing multiple vessels in U.S. shipyards. The new vessel designs ‘meet a portion of the U.S. military’s sealift needs in times of war or during national emergencies,’ says MARAD.
“The press release says that ‘production of these efficient, economically-friendly vessels could bolster the domestic shipbuilding industry by creating new jobs and strengthening regional economies.’
“‘This is another step in helping America’s Marine Highways move our economy and relieve congestion on our roads,’ said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. ‘The U.S. maritime industry is vital to our economy and our security. These vessel designs will bolster both in a way that maximizes efficiency while minimizing environmental impact.’
“Eleven designs have been created for new shipping vessels that can transport cargoes that would otherwise be trucked over congested roadways. The innovative designs focus primarily on roll-on roll-off vessels intended to carry wheeled cargo such as automobiles, trucks and trailers or railroad cars that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels.
“The designs include six roll-on roll-off (RO/RO) vessels (one of them a gas turbine 30 knot Fastship and another a trimaran), three combination RO/RO-container carriers (one of which is an ATB), a feeder containership, and a RO/RO-passenger ferry (for which, a note says, LNG propulsion is an option). The RO/RO and RO/RO-container vessels carry various types of vehicles, but are primarily intended for tractor-trailers and stackable containers. The feeder containership can support standard-sized containers stacked both below and above deck, and the RO/RO-passenger ferry can transport tractor trailers along with their drivers.
“‘These designs are a road-map to a brighter future for the men and women who serve our nation at sea,’ said U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. ‘By bringing cutting-edge technology to America’s maritime workforce. our country can be a global leader in shipbuilding.'” –
Take a closer look at this press release.
That business about “…new designs for shipping vessels specifically designed for America’s Marine Highways”, for example, is hogwash. Those designs are not for “America’s Marine Highways” – commonly referred to as Short Sea Shipping – those ships are for the weapons industry. Otherwise they’d never see the light of day.
One of our patented designs is comparable – but in size only – to the design furnished in MARAD’S press release. Here are more exact specifications:
Length, Over All 550.2 feet 490 feet
Beam 88.6 feet 90 feet
Design Draft 19.7 feet 20 feet
Cargo Capacity 423 TEU 696 TEU
But performance and profitability are the most important considerations. Bear in mind that, thus far, no conventionally-designed vessels engaged in Short Sea Shipping have ever made a profit, and those being promoted by MARAD would prove to be no exceptions. But those vessels intended for use on “America’s Marine Highways” – they’re for America’s armed forces. It says so right in the press release. Their purpose is to “‘… meet a portion of the U.S. military’s needs in times of war or during national emergencies,’ says MARAD..”
“There is no information on what might induce any shipowner to order any of them, how they might be paid for or, for that matter, what they might cost,” is the observation made by Marine Log’s editor. And what further proof is needed that these vessels have nothing to do with “America’s Marine Highways”? They were not ordered by private interests because Short Sea Shipping has been a loser from the get-go. The order, according to the press release, is a result of a ” … Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Navy under which MARAD and the Navy could provide up to $ 800,000 to advance two or three of these new concept designs to the next stage of development.”
It’s obvious that it’s all a smokescreen, and even U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood got into the act. “This is another step in helping America’s Marine Highways move our economy and relieve congestion on our roads,” he said. “The U.S. maritime industry is vital to our economy and our security. These vessel designs will bolster both in a way that maximizes efficiency while minimizing environmental impact.” Such baloney. We’ve been sending information about our revolutionary – and highly profitable – Short Sea Shipping designs to U.S. Transportation Secretary’s for almost ten years, but not a one of them ever responded to our pleadings. Yes, pleadings.
Revitalizing our shipyards to create civilian jobs is not a priority because that would reduce “opportunities” in our armed forces – and the weapons industry is all that matters to those at the top.