Visitation Rites (A reprint of Vol. XXIII, Art. 27 – 3 years ago today)

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between chicanery and stupidity. Almost a year ago the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Trucks Program shelled out about $ 44 million to dozens of trucking companies to upgrade vehicles and reduce emissions, but port officials now complain that the majority of those trucks haven’t made the minimum number of port trips required by the program.

Each of those trucks was committed to make at least 300 pickups or deliveries annually over the next five years, but according to officials, about 70 percent of the trucks subsidized will not meet the required goals this year. In fact, they say, more than 390 of those trucks haven’t visited even once.

Those truck drivers just can’t be trusted. Can’t you just see them out on the golf courses, or sunning themselves by their swimming pools? No need to work now that the truck has been upgraded.

Why doesn’t the port come right out and admit that the only reason these hard-working drivers aren’t “visiting” is because the containers aren’t there to be hauled. If those no-show 390 truckers were supposed to haul 300 containers apiece, but the containers weren’t available, that translates into a shortfall of about 215,000 TEUs.

And because many of the “vast majority” were also occasional no-shows, that tells us that there’s been a considerable reduction in imported products over the past few months. So where’s this “recovery” the bigwigs have been talking about? Are they lying to us, or are they just plain stupid?
Are they trying to hold on to their high salaries by pretending that things are rosy, or are they so dimwitted that they can’t see that the industry is in a death spiral?

And speaking of stupidity – or is it chicanery – New Jersey officials are now trying to con taxpayers into funding a new Bayonne Bridge. Their argument is that when the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2015, their bridge’s 151-foot clearance will be too low to accommodate the “colossal container ships” expected from Asia.

Supply and demand, of course, has nothing to do with it, as far as the politicians are concerned. The expanded Panama Canal simply means that hundreds of thousands of containers will be shipped to the Port of NY/NJ by those generous Asians, even though the unemployed in New Jersey and New York didn’t ask for, and can’t pay for, those goods.

Do those hacks actually believe that the limited height of the Bayonne Bridge and the narrowness of the present Panama Canal are the factors that have led to the declining imports on the West Coast and on the East Coast? Of course they don’t. They can read. They know that their plush jobs are in jeopardy. They just want to make sure that the public doesn’t figure it out.

And those “colossal container ships”? Fantasy. Our survival will be on the backs of U.S.-built, moderately-sized, and patented, Jones Act ships. Bangladesh scrap yards will get the mega-ships.