The name of the game is JOBS!

What used to be generally known as Short Sea Shipping (SSS) is now officially designated as America’s Marine Highway Program. But because that’s like trying to rename one of your kids, it might take a little while for some of the older folks to get a grip on that new handle.

In spite of the many obstacles to a viable Short Sea Shipping program in the U.S., you can rest assured that Short Sea Shipping will not go away. In earlier commentaries we’ve covered the reasons why past attempts at SSS have failed to generate a profit, but with the passing of time, and as increasing numbers of unemployed and underemployed Americans are calling for lower and lower prices for consumable goods, the SSS concept is once again attracting the attention of officials. Even overseas entities are getting into the act.

This past summer, Lloyd’s List published an article by Katrin Berkenkopf stating that American Feeder Lines (AFL) intends to build ten vessels for use in a feeder network serving U.S. ports. American Feeder Lines, according to the article, is owned by “German KG heavyweight Tobias Konig”, and in a joint project with US real estate tycoon Percy Pine, the new company is preparing a road show to raise up to $ 750 million to pay for those ten vessels. The road show is being coordinated by the New York-based Seabury group and, according to the principals, only when sufficient funds have been raised will AFL order those ten 1,300 TEU ships.

Ms. Berkenkopf’s article went on to state that these vessels, intended for use as Jones Act ships, have already been designed, and that letters of intent have been issued to Aker Yards in Philadelphia and to Bay Shipbuilding in Wisconsin. The letters of intent are just that – indications of good intentions. Purchase Orders, however, are something else. Since the initial announcement, we’ve seen no updates about this joint project and we can only assume that potential investors know all about the problem that caused earlier SSS attempts to fail.

That problem, simply stated, is that profits are adversely affected by inefficient, conventional means of container storage and retrieval. It was the time spent in repeated loading and offloading operations in efforts to disgorge targeted containers that raised operational costs at every port and threw bottom lines into the red. Our newly-designed Short Sea container vessels, on the other hand, would generate the profits needed to attract investors. Our patented push-button system is a radical departure from primitive and time-consuming container handling methods, and while our rapid delivery system increases profits for the operator, the line’s operating costs – as well as costs to the end user – are dramatically reduced.

And here we see a real “multiplier effect”. The demand for more of our Jones Act vessels will prop up failing shipyards and create thousands and thousands of new jobs. More jobs mean more weekly paychecks. More paychecks restore lost buying power. Restored buying power leads to more demand, and more demand creates more manufacturing jobs both here and abroad.

Job creation. It all boils down to shipbuilding, doesn’t it?