So “as part of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s $300 million Port Development Plan” they buy two 12 million dollar cranes and will buy two more “manufactured by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries and transported aboard the heavy lift vessel Zhen Hua 16”.

I’m sure they’re fine cranes but really? They couldn’t build this at any of a dozen fabricators in the northeast? We have to sub out our infrastructure projects now?

Many have been talking about this all over FB. I’m in total agreement with you and have to wonder if they even put it out to bid with “local” companies and if they did were the specs written in a way that only one or two companies could meet them!

To a much smaller scale, my little town is doing some major upgrades to the entrances to the town. While driving by I noticed that not one of the contractors were from my local area and some even came from out of state. So, if we can’t get local Government to source things from local contractors how can we get the Feds to do it. They always say it’s about the money but if we do not start to support out Local People, we are going to be screwed even more when we need them!


I would say that the problem is not having a choice of fabricators it is having an entity presenting a complete package. A complete package entails all the engineering design, approvals, and procurement. I was involved in a newbuilding program in the Gulf several years ago and we dealt with a number of vendors both large and small that wanted to be fabricators in the strictest sense. “Give us the drawings, and we will make that.” The engineering was sourced out somewhere else. It ended up not being cost effective and amounted to constantly redesigning the wheel.

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Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC) is world leader in STS Container cranes and container handling equipment. They have supplied cranes to ports all over the world and is recognized for their quality, reliability and service:

They are able to deliver the cranes full assembled all over the world using their own ships for transport and their own equipment for installation,
For any American manufacturer to be able to compete on design, quality and costs would take years, since there are none in the running at the moment.

It would be better to concentrate on products and commodities where USA is in the lead, or competitive, and export those to China and the world.

When I saw the German ports replace their aging Leibherr gantries many years ago with ZPMC gantries, it was obvious that China had taken the lead in container crane production. Maybe not in quality, but certainly in value, and that is pretty much all that matters in business anymore.

Ultimately people (graft and corruption aside), will let their wallets do the talking.

23 posts were merged into an existing topic: Understanding China

Same dynamic as ship building… You can’t expect any industry in the US to compete with a country with no EPA, OSHA, labor unions, or other ‘encumberances’ that come along with being a first world nation.

In it’s purest form, globalism is a race to the bottom from the perspective of the average person. There’ll always be poorer people willing to make products cheaper and cheaper. And as those new cheaper laborers are found, the people who had the jobs before get displaced.

Great for third world countries, not worth a damn for developed countries.


When Boeing wanted to sell airplanes in China, China required that Boeing build parts of the planes in China and transfer aircraft technology to China. The US should do the same with the container cranes.

Otherwise, the US should just reverse engineer the Chinese container cranes and build them in the US. Just as the Chinese do with everything that is US designed.

We need the ability to build, make parts, repair, and operate container cranes and similar types of equipment without being dependent on China. You know that China must have a backdoor built into the software that allows them to disable the container cranes anytime they want to in the event of conflict.

China will turn off everything in the US the day before they invade Taiwan.

National security and economic security demand that we build our basic infrastructure equipment right here in the US.


Yes yes yes. Anybody who thinks China is going to this kumbaya, benevolent, ‘best interests of the world’ entity when they get in the driver’s seat is absolutely delusional.

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Infrastructure, that is to say a manufacturing base, takes time and an available market to develop. Once lost however, it is very, very difficult to regain as other players have stepped into that vacuum.

Prior to the 80"s when the US Government decided to end their support for the maritime industry shipyards were building enough ships for this manufacturing infrastructure to exist. Yes the ships were still more expensive than those built foreign but the differential was not exorbitant like it is today. This is not to say there weren’t other issues at play. Companies did not see the end of cheap fuel coming and held on to steam plants way too long. When the price of fuel went up the cost of operating steam ships put them and their operators at a disadvantage. There still aren’t any large low speed engine manufacturers or licensees in the US.

Today US shipyards that are building large seagoing ships often partner with foreign shipyards using off the shelf designs. Great idea, why redesign the wheel if the work has already been done? The package deal usually includes all the machinery as well. Outside of the steel industry very little goes to other US manufacturers as equipment suppliers. If the design work has already been done and regulatory approvals procured, why spend time looking for US equivalents if there are any. Not saying this is always the case, but often it is.


Thanks for bringing us back on track.
If the yards would also upgrade their technology and management methods they could be able to, if not fully, compete on costs, at least for more sophisticated type of vessels. If European yards can do so, so can US yards, I would think.

Of course, as long as the Management are paid sky high salaries and share holders expect absorbent return on investment, it is hard to compete with more moderate expectation at other yards, even with the best of facilities, tools and methods.

When I was at HMD in Korea involved in newbuildings any changes that you wish to be made went back to the design department so that they were incorporated into any the other vessels on order (or the entire design class if the yard thought it was worth while). Very rarely could you just tell the foremen on sight you wanted the table, controller whatever here, not there. Just was not done, even if you thought it was just a minor change. It was all about production.

Fast forward several years and I was down in the GOM at Eastern Shipbuilding aboard one of a series of OSV’s being built. While aboard I listened to a fix that had been made. The original design called for a pillar to be placed right in the middle of the mess deck. The owner’s people asked that it be moved forward so it would be out of the way and the crew would not have to walk around it. This was done along with whatever structural requirements needed to be done in the field but the change was never transmitted back to engineering to incorporate during the production phase of the others vessels to be built. On each of the next ships built the fix was done post production adding needless cost in man hours and material. Though they were putting out a nice product I thought it was a mistake not to include these changes to lower their production costs.

Edit: Posted the above comment to illustrate one of the differences in management styles between US and foreign shipyards which helps put them at a disadvantage, IMO. Perhaps not the case in all situations.

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This could be part of it.

And no doubt this is part of it too.

But didn’t Engineering-Purchasing-Fabrication scope of services used to be routinely provided by at least the bigger US yards. So even if say a Manitowoc certainly a world class crane designer, was to design a container crane it could be produced within miles of most ports or just up the coast.

I’m not so naive as to believe the great and powerful corporate commercial interests care one whit for actual walking around on two feet fellow citizens and I thought government missteps were more a matter of incompetence and bungling. But we seemed to have reached a new level of shortsightedness. Do we really lack the imagination to put 1 and 1 together and improve our ports while also employing US citizens at the same time?

Putting aside China’s motives for the purposes of this thread, and also the question of “how did we get here” it just seems an odd place to be when Packer Avenue terminal is blocks from the Aker yard. But one thing I don’t buy - and this is based on actual experience with shipyards and cranes from outside the US - is that there is a lack of capability. Lack of political will power, going against the financial, legal (fill in the blank) industries best interest, yes precious little of that.

Again China’s motives and acts are their business. How a nation comes to act against its own best interests is our problem. I read this book when it came out in 1984 but apparently elected officials do not read or apparently think much. Unless it is how to accommodate the “powers that be”. Side note: I can recommend any book by Barbara Tuchman.

I don’t disagree with what you are saying. Very often short term fixes work against long term solutions and strategic goals. I often think we fall prey to the Law of Unintended Consequences. Maybe the consequences are known but not deemed worth the effort when the can gets kicked down the road.