The Incredible Hulls

Fiction… as reported in newspapers and maritime journals:

• “The GPA (Georgia Ports Authority) will be getting a little help from Uncle Sam in preparation for the largest expansion project in history. The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved $ 700,000 in federal funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which will deepen the Savannah seaport from 42 feet to 48 feet to accommodate the larger ships expected to come calling when the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014. ‘The project is critical. If Savannah is not prepared, ships will go elsewhere and jobs will be lost. While this funding is just a start, it will go a long way toward getting the project underway.’” — Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga.

• “The Bayonne Bridge is too low to accommodate the colossal container ships currently being built, leaving the clock ticking and three drastic options to fix the problem before the vessels pick another port of call … The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has accelerated its $ 300,000 study to come up with a solution before next spring.” — Staten Island Advance

• “The Port of New Orleans says a $ 500 million expansion of its Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal is badly needed … Port officials have said that the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal must be enlarged to handle the surge of container cargo slated to hit seaports after 2014, when a widened Panama Canal opens a route to the Gulf of Mexico for large Asian cargo ships that now call on the West Coast.” — The Times-Picayune

• “JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi officials are moving forward with a state port expansion financed with Hurricane Katrina funds despite congressional protests that the money should be spent where it was intended – housing. ‘There are 2.4 million containers coming into the Gulf every year. That number is going to double overnight. The increase in ships and cargo transiting the canal is going to have a variety of ports to choose from, but the only ports they’re going to take this cargo and business to are the ones that are prepared.’” — Don Allee, executive director, Port of Gulfport.

• “As the Panama Canal expands, the ships calling on our port will become larger and require deeper water. At the current depth of 42 feet, the Port of Savannah today accommodates ships carrying as many as 6,700 20-foot containers. By 2015, vessels carrying as many as 12,000 containers will be able to transit the canal and we have to be ready for them.” — Robert Morris, director of external affairs, Georgia Port Authority

• “We can see that they’re putting all the efforts to become the highest priority. All of the ports on the East Coast are trying to lobby to get funds and priority. There will be more than Norfolk, Va., ready.”(sic) — Rodolfo Sabonge, vice president of market research and analysis, Panama Canal Authority

Fact: … as reported in worldwide financial journals:

• Global stocks slide as oil prices rocket to records.

• Asian markets tumble on oil’s spike above $ 141 a barrel.

• Japanese shares sink to two-month lows.

• Chinese shares close down 5.29 percent.

• Hong Kong shares close 1.84 pc down.

• Seoul shares plunge on economy, inflation worries.

• Oracle shares fall on concerns over outlook.

• GM shares tumble to lowest in more than 30 years.

• Wall Street hit by weak profit outlook, Fed hesitation.

• “The economic gloom is far greater than it was in 2002 because we have concern about worldwide inflation and what oil is going to do to the economy. The problem for investors is when all this is going to end, and the bottom line is nobody knows. Nostradamus wouldn’t have known, neither would Albert Einstein.” — Alfred E. Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities

• “I knew we’d get through all the problems in 2002 because it was your plain vanilla, fairly shallow recession. Right now, I think we’re in one of the most threatening crises in our history, and it’s going to take a Manhattan Project to figure out what to do (referring to the World War II program to build the atomic bomb), and it will take billions of dollars to implement it. It can’t immediately be cured because we need long-term answers. Washington needs to actively take charge if we want to turn this situation around. People are recognizing that the Fed is now in a total box.” — Stephen Leeb, president of New York-based Leeb Capital Management

Do these factual reports sound as though “things should perk up in a year or two”? Or that “increased container volume” is “expected at LA, LB, Oakland and other major US container ports”? Or that “the container market looks set to flourish in the years ahead”?

We’re hearing from authorities that something akin to the Manhattan project at a cost of billions of dollars is our only hope if we’re to pull out of this economic tailspin. The cure won’t be immediate because “nobody knows … when all this is going to end”. The beginning of the end, however, will be the day “Washington” realizes that only a commercial shipbuilding program delivering our patented and manageable container ships … a Manhattan Project, if you will …can enable this goose ( the U.S.) to lay and distribute her golden eggs again.