John Cabot, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Columbus, these are but a few names of early sailors on the east coast of the United States. By the late 1570’s there had been a permanent colony established in Virginia. This is where the beginnings of our maritime history really began. Trading between the southern islands discovered by Christopher Columbus to the Labrador area discovered by John Cabot, and east to the Old World, trading by water for goods had begun; we have come a very long way since then.
Today maritime trading is a worldwide network of commerce handling approximately 90% of the world’s non-bulk cargo. These vessels travel faster and with more cargo in one trip than those original sailing vessels may have carried in their operational lives.
Most of the world has already returned to the roots of ocean trading by redeveloping “Short Sea Shipping” networks. These designs increase the speed of goods transported as well as to alleviate road congestion. Some fringe benefits of this are, reduction of toxic emissions, reduction of road destruction, reduction of traffic accidents, insurance claims, and so on. Sadly, our United States ranks toward the bottom of the list in using this mode of transportation. It is time for a change.
Our goal is to bring the efficiencies of “Short Sea Shipping” back to the U.S., after all our country was built this way by our founding fathers. Look back in our history you will find the earliest U. S. cities connected by navigable waterways, from this, I say, “Our history is our future”. Our network of vessels and ports will enhance our nation’s modal transportation networks, adding speed, control, security and much needed new lanes of travel.
Many states are already working toward their maritime futures; they are beginning to see the Marine Highway system as necessary for our continued growth as a country.
Without trucking and rail our vessels can only do so much. This brings up the point many have been looking past for far too long, without trucks America stops. Today trucking companies are beginning some extreme changes not initiated by them. The government is currently writing new laws for driver hours, highway MPG, onboard safety systems, and emission levels. These changes expect to reduce productivity by an estimated 20% nationwide, increase the driver shortage, and likely put many companies out of business entirely. This accompanied by higher all around business costs will put higher price tags on all of the goods and services we use as Americans.
We can counter act this, or at least a portion of it. With our short sea system, we will be able to re-task many trucks to work “intra-state” instead of “interstate” as well as connect to rail terminals local to our ports. We will also be able to load trucks to more efficient weight capacities, which will reduce the amount of trips required to move goods. By doing this we will help to put more “paying trips” on each truck daily with shorter lanes of travel. I know this must sound like a joke but it works, I have done this myself with my own company and with other much larger supply chain systems that I have worked. This will keep more jobs in the market.
There will always be the need for Intrastate as well as Interstate trucking, the water does not connect everywhere, nor does the rail. Together all three modes of transportation worked correctly will grow new efficiencies, lower emissions, lower road congestion, add additional jobs. This is only the beginning, after a few years of working a complete system alteration this large, we will likely discover additional changes and add even more efficiencies to the infrastructure of our country.
Trial, Error, and hard work built our country. We make mistakes and we learn from them. The only mistake we cannot afford is not to act! If we stay with the system we are currently using we are doomed to continue to lose world market share. By trying to change, even if we fail, we learn and grow.
By Pat Roche