In another thread we have been OT on this subject. The consensus appears to be that it would be desirable to develop efficient Short Sea Shipping in the US, but a lot of things stand in the way of developing it. Even MARAD appears to favour it, but that doesn’t result in any meaningful action, apparently.
Some time ago(on a Saturday)I watched a small coaster arriving in port to discharge a few pallets of cargo. There were two men seen to be active on board and one man waiting on the wharf. Here is the operation I observed:
The AB set out a spring line at the bow and the Master/Mate kept the engine going dead slow ahead.
The side gate was opened hydraulically by pressing a button somewhere and adjusted itself to the height of the quay side.
The AB jumped on a forklift in the hold to bring the first pallet onto the lift.
The man on the wharf opened the door to the warehouse and brought out another forklift to pick the pallet off the lift and get it into the warehouse.
This was repeated a dozen times or so in abt. half an hour, whereupon the the side gate was closed, the spring line let go and the vessel was on her way to the next port, which could be a few hours, or even minutes away.
In this case no crane lifting involved, which would probably require one more person in activity on deck.(The Master/Mate would come down from the wheelhouse?)
I did not take any pictures it was after dark, but here is picture of the side gate arrangement on another vessel:
A few days I took this picture of a typical Short Sea Vessel tradinf in the North Sea, Baltic and along the Norwgian Coast(not the same) laving port:
Here is brief specs as shown on Marine Traffic: http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:313526/mmsi:259120000/imo:9418781/vessel:WITH_JUNIOR
The crew is six persons, all with Forklift and Crane operator certificates.
I don’t say that this is the type of ship that would be best suited for Short Sea Shipping in the US.
Most likely something like this would be better: http://products.damen.com/en/ranges/combi-coaster/combi-coaster-2500
This one can serve both coastal, near seas and river trade, but does not have self-discharging capabilities.
A fleet with a variety of vessels for different types of cargoes, trading areas and capabilities should be the long term aim.
To succeed in establishing anything that can compete with trucks and railroads will require a change of rules, policy and mindset, which is probably a lot more difficult to achieve than to build up a suitable fleet of vessels and to find the manpower of qualified personnel to operate them safely.
Please let us hear some opinions and suggestions on this subject.
PS> There is an old joke about getting a job as an Engineer on a Coaster; “Must be able to cook, have forklift licence and know the coastal fairways well”.