Short sea shipping in the US?


I already told you, my education was completed at the finest institutions in Norway. I have no need for further “educational experiences.”

Absolutely disgusting. Don’t they know that snus is superior to chewing tobacco in every way?

They are decades beyond NASA at this point.

Why? I already know they are doing it wrong, and that their beliefs are backwards and foolish.


Come now. You did have some more meaningful comment than your last, about “sh*t stirring”, in your post #109. But since you brought it up, I do appear to have stirred something here.

Just in case you missed it, both China and Europe have long coast lines, navigable rivers and canal, as well as an extensive road network, not to mention high speed rail, especially in China.
The size of the coastal and inland fleets have also been brought up earlier.

The watershed is sizable in both areas, with dredging and maintenance of locks and bridges an important part of keeping them navigable, regardless of which country we are talking about.

Who and what is stopping the US from developing a viable Short sea/River transport system can be debated, but old habits and refusal to develop new ways may be one of them. It is a pity that this extend to the people who would have had the most immediate advantage of such a development is a bit of a surprise to me and many others.(mostly foreigners??)


The facts are that is it not currently cost effective, due to many factors including port taxes and longshoremens’ fees. I expect that as environmental issues get pushed to the forefront someone in shipping will team up with environmental groups to rally their voters to push for reform such that SSS becomes an economical method.


Yes I agree, it is not viable without a structural, regulatory and administrative change, which is what I have been saying all along.
As long as everybody sit back and say; “this can’t be done and nothing will change”, then not will change.
The environmental thing will become a factor, but obviously not with this Administration, (at least not in a positive way) but somewhere down the line??

The power of a few US Unions to do the same harm as the Unions in UK and Australia did in the 1960’s and 70’s, while the Unions are otherwise relatively weak, or not functioning for the better of their members, are another thing that amazes us foreigners. (Why is there no Margaret Thatcher like figure when needed??)

Back in the 1960’s Fred Olsen Lines introduced palletized cargo and side ports for their fruit carriers from the Canary Isles to London Docks, but the Dockers demanded a full gang of 12 men to watch non-unionized forklift drivers doing the work. The history goes that Fred Olsen himself went in to negotiate with the Dockers directly, which resulted in the best deal (for both side) in the London Docks:

The story goes that the Union Rep. shall have stated; “Damn, if you weren’t a Shipowner we would have voted for you as the Union boss”.

Maybe not a feasible scenario for the near future, but you can always hope for better times.


Hoping for the ILA or ILWU to give an inch on their contracts would be VERY wishful thinking. They are the last unions with teeth left in the U.S. You could send all the shipowners in the world (even the benevolent Norwegian ones) and they probably wouldn’t even show up to the meeting. I’m not saying I agree with it, or the fact that the guy carrying the water jugs down to the dock drives a nicer car than me, but I about rolled off my couch laughing.


You are probably right, nothing will change in the near future, but you can always hope.

The problem may not be the Unions alone. They can be turned to useful tools for change, as shown in UK and other parts of the world.

Could the actual problem be “money politics”?? If that isn’t changed not much can be done.
Unless the political climate change, that is.

Maybe the “social media revolution” will happen and traditional political parties will go the way of the dinosaurs.


More meaningful than to have identified you as a s%$# stirrer? No nothing more. And at last you admit it though quite circuitously. That’s ok, you are now on the road to recovery.

Maybe just consider that the next time you feel compelled to post. Just leave off the judgemental part about the US you seem so preoccupied with. Thank you.


According to their job ads, the average Walmart driver makes $82,000 his first year.

Transportation costs have many components. Labor is just one of them.

Shipboard labor costs per container are next to nothing. Maybe $50 per container from Asia to the US.


But you would agree if truck drivers made $140,000 or more then the economics of moving a container by sea over the short distances along the NE corridor would shift in favor of putting 20 containers on a barge and towing them Elizabeth to Portland say?


he hourly wage of an experienced longshoreman under the most recent union contract, affecting U.S. East Coast ports, is $35 per hour; with wages for newcomers starting at $20. A longshoreman’s total compensation, though, includes benefits that amount to 24 percent of the hourly wage and a bonus for each container of cargo they work with. The bonuses and benefits drive the potential hourly compensation up to $44.20 per hour, or $91,998 per year for a longshoreman who works 40 hours each week.


I admit that I did the stirring, but you supplied the sh*t…
The attitude that because it isn’t possible today, it can’t EVER become so is self-defeating.

Nobody can convince me that this way of transporting containers and rolling stock:

Is safer and more efficient than to do so with this one:

Or that to deliver containers , to say St.Louis by tug and barge:

Is better, safer and faster then to do so with one of these:

Especially if from the Hub Port at Freeport, Bahamas, or any US coastal port. (Even NOLa)

It is obviously not a new idea, based on this article from 2013:

Yes manning rules and the Longshoremen’s grip on the Ports must be change, but to give up without a fight is un-American.


That’s it…that’s it… let it all out now. You’ll feel better in the morning. Let’s continue…

The above is a figment of your imagination and seems to be offered up only to drive a wedge and further antagonize. I can’t remember anyone representing their attitude about short sea shipping in the US as you have stated it above. What I have seen here is people desirous of such a trade developing but only pointing out the reasons why it hasn’t happened yet and possible stumbling blocks whereas you seem to think it is only a matter of magical thinking.

Your analysis seems to be China has a coast, China has some river box ships, US has a coast ipso facto US should have river box ships. Other people have explained it is more complicated than that but you don’t want to comprehend that. Somehow you turn “it’s more complicated than that” into “giving up” or “believing it can’t ever be so”. Okay we get it. There is a difference between saying “it will never happen unless…” and “it will never happen”. Capiche?

Why not? In the words of a great American:
"I say boy, I say, what’s it all about boy, elucidate!"
Foghorn Leghorn

Do you have any studies of the unsafe aspects of tug and barge operation in the US? Do you think drivers operating yard mules in near continuous drive off of the ro-ro barge is less efficient than a vessel with a single ramp? How so? How about the container/chassis or trailer being immediately picked up by a tractor for road transport vs transferring the cargo from those low-boys I see in the hull? Especially when only loaded over a short coastwise. Evem more cargo handling. Is the crew size and cost of that ro-ro less than a tug? Let me just say I don’t know either but these are the sorts of things most readers want to know and formulate plans with. Again these may seem like negative comments to you but they are issues that need to be resolved before an owner is going to build something. Hey it would be “nicer” for people like me but being “nicer” doesn’t enter into the calculus of the owner/carrier/market?

But more than the above details, here we get to the root of your problem. You read a PR release, an industry puff piece or some other “news” article and then you have an emotional response and you link it and splatter your opinion (usually labeled as fact and sprinkled with a few sea stories) in a derisive manner which seems to be calculated to elicit controversy. Then you interpret any response other than praise and honor for your position as total opposition. If that’s how you want to spend your time go for it.

I have an interest in short sea shipping but I am disappointed by how you frame many of your posts as anti-American then deny it or disclaim it by saying “well not all Americans”. Why do you think there is such a backlash good natured or otherwise with the Norwegian thing?

Who’s said anything about giving up? That’s all you again. If you have read even a part of what myself and others have written (not just on this thread) you know many Americans are critical of MARAD’s performance in recent years and yet we are also aware that a detailed review of their remit and funding never happens. The total disdain certain citizens seem to have for the federal government (richly deserved in some cases) together with the corrupting influence of money and special interest groups does not bode well for additional funding to MARAD for an active R&D program, subsidies, or other enticements any time soon. But you go ahead keep telling us like it is.

And thanks for letting us know what is un-American.

With regard to:

I would suggest you consider the words of another great American:
"it is a principle that shines on the just and unjust that once you have a point of view all history will back you up"
Van Wyck Brooks

I feel like our time is up for this session. Please take all the tissues you want. But I feel you may have issues deeper than my lowly skills are capable of. Please make an appointment with @Capt_Anonymous at your earliest convenience.


Funnily enough, Crowley is ahead of you on that one.


Yes that is a beginning, but two such vessels from Crawley and two more from TOTE will only be that, a beginning. I know that new ships for the Hawaii and Alaska trades are on order and construction as well, but the large potential market is in the Coastal and River trade.

As has been pointed out in abundance; the obstacle is in the resistance for change in the industry, the lack of changes in the way ports are operating, Longshoremen’s Union power, administrative and political will (or ability) to do anything.

Meanwhile the rest of the world is forging ahead with modernization of both their sea, road and rail transport, leaving the Americans to shout about unfair competition and America First.

If my saying so is seen as an insult, so be it. I’m actually only pointing out the obvious, which anybody can check and see for themselves. (If they are willing to open their mind and not just look at everything I say as anti-American)


Tugs and barges have had a huge cost advantage over ships due to drastically reduced manning with fewer certificates, no USCG inspection, no requirement to be classed, much cheaper maintenance costs, etc.
Subchapter M, if it’s actually enforced, will reduce that cost advantage somewhat.

Crowley took the size too far with its largest class of ATBs, and the cost advantage disappeared. So they started building real tankers. I suspect that the large Ro-Ro barges to Puerto Rico May be at the upper end of what is practical for size, hence the new Co-Ro ships.

The Ro-Ro never made sense to me for a run that long. For long runs, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, ships make more sense than slow barges for time sensitive cargos.

There is still a big barge trade to Hawaii and Alaska for cargos that are not time sensitive because barges freight rates are much cheaper and many places have no facilities for ships.

I think tugs and barges will continue to have a large cost advantage over ships for short runs. In small “ports” where barges can bypass the union longshoremen they have a huge cost advantage.

Small Euro style ships would not compete with tug and barge unless the manning was reduced to tug boat level — 5 man crew.


Longshoreman wages and unions are always brought up when discussing short sea shipping or international trade.For some reason paying wages that allow a person to support their family seems to be the great impediment to every business plan in the USA. The unionized NY City police force pays +$85000/yr after 5 years and they get a very nice pension after 20 years. Why shouldn’t a longshoreman make as much? Being a cop is safer than farming, logging, fishing and they make chump change.
Short sea shipping will happen in the USA only when the rail and trucking industry allow it. Railroads are a monopoly now and there is no way they and their congressmen will allow short sea shipping to take a piece of their profit.


It is indeed a pitty that monopolies and backward thinking shall hold up the development of effective SSS in USA.

I can see it is attractive to use a tug and barge configuration when manning is that low and the size and type of barge is not regulated. The safety of towing/pushing large barges loaded with oil and chemicals vs. tanker transport should also be an issue in an environmentally conscious Maritime Administration.

What is not mentioned is the insurance costs, which is normally substantially higher for anything loaded on towed barges than on a ship. That is what “killed” Crowley’s dry tow of rigs on barges when semisubmersible HLV came on the market. (My earliest involvement with dry tows were by Crowley/Red Stack tugs and barges)

In Europe the manning requirements are not fixed by any specific size, type or trade, but based on requirements of safe navigation. Min. safe manning is proposed by the Owner/Manager and verified, or amended by the relevant Maritime Authorities.
Here is the regulation for the German register:

This 3500 DWT open hatch Sea/River bulk/general cargo ship has facilities for a crew of 8 (I don’t know if that is the actual crew on board) :
Wilson Alicante.pdf (136.2 KB)

And a Sea/River Container Feed of 8500 DWT:
Wilson container.pdf (148.4 KB)

Ships like these could load way up rivers and transport the cargo to any other coastal or river port in USA, or Canada, the Caribbean islands, Central and South American north coast at least.
No double handling, safe, economical and fast. But, as you all have said, it cannot be done as long as greed is stronger than sense of duty to the society.


No, no it isn’t.

(I’m referring to the looking that actually pays big money.)


Man you’re full of shit. No one has ever said anything remotely close to that.


Highest fatality injury rates per occupation according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  1. Loggers- 132 per 100,000

  2. Fishermen- 55 per 100,000

  3. Aircraft pilots- 40 per 100,000

  4. Roofers- 40 per 100,000

  5. Refuse and recyclable material workers- 39 per 100,000

  6. Structural iron and steel workers- 30 per 100,000

  7. Truck drivers- 24 per 100,000

  8. Farmers, ranchers- 22 per 100,000

  9. Electrical power-line workers- 21 per 100,000

  10. Landscapers- 18 per 100,000.

    Cops- 12.6 per 100,000