The Mating Dance of the Whopper Cranes

“The vessel was getting into position to turn and hit a dredge on the westernmost part of the river,” said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Schmid. No injuries or pollution were reported as a result of the collision, the Coast Guard added, but the actual extent of the damages wouldn’t be known until insurance claims are assessed.

That collision took place at about 5 p.m. last Saturday, the Associated Press reported, and the Coast Guard inquiry is likely to include drug and alcohol testing on the 20-man crew of the Chinese ship, Zhen Hua 16. That Chinese vessel was making its way up the Cape Fear River and hauling four huge cranes to the state pier in Wilmington, NC, when it hit the dredge, officials said. As a result of the collision, “… catwalks on the rear of the $ 33 million cranes were damaged and hung like steel streamers from the 235-foot tall cranes”. The cranes were scheduled to be delivered on February 6th, and were supposed to be in operation by April 1.

[$ 33 million is a pretty good sized piece of change, wouldn’t you say?]

While this mishap was being dealt with, the Wilmington Star-News was releasing information that was obtained from a January memo to managers from the CEO of the port. The state Ports Authority is temporarily cutting salaries and freezing hiring in order to help the agency through some tight financial times, the memo said. Revenue had dropped by about $ 340,000 from last year, expenses had gone up $ 785,000, and the authority was operating at a $ 594,000 loss through December, the memo continued, in part because of downturns in markets for forest products, wood pulp and rubber, as well as delays in acquiring new container services in Wilmington.

According to the memo, if expenses weren’t cut and business didn’t pick up, the Ports Authority would face a $ 1 million loss at year’s end.

Along with the above cost-cutting measures, the authority has also determined that merit pay increases for all salaried and hourly administrative personnel were to be suspended , up to a 3.5 percent reduction. Overtime hours and temporary jobs in port facilities in Morehead City, Charlotte and Greensboro, as well as in Wilmington, were also to be affected by these cost-cutting measures.

The Chinese made out alright though, didn’t they? They got their $ 33 million.

Who in the world would think of spending $ 33 million for huge cranes, during “some tight financial times”, and when:
• salaries were being cut,
• hiring was being frozen,
• new container services were being delayed,
• and overtime and temporary jobs were being reduced?

Folks who are accountable to no one, that’s who.