Ships instead of trucks

May 1st, 2008

Today’s Providence Journal has an excellent editorial about the benefits of short sea shipping and how area ports — Providence, Quonset, Fall River, and New Bedford — are ideally located to benefit from this emerging shipping trend.

The clogging of roadways is a feature of life in the Northeast, adding to the cost of goods, wasting time and fuel, and spewing pollution. Route 95 between Washington and Boston, “the Main Street of the East Coast,” is the prime example.

There is an alternative, however, that would get hundreds of trucks off the highway every day. The very underused ports of southeastern New England — Providence, Quonset, Fall River and New Bedford — are promising transshipment points for cargoes from New York to points elsewhere in New England. Tugs and barges, or better, a fleet of small, fast container ships, would unload overseas containers from sea-going container ships in New York, and bring them east through Long Island and Block Island sounds to ports in Narragansett Bay or Buzzards Bay, where they would be loaded onto trucks and trains. A barge can carry 150 containers, an 18-wheeler just one. They would also pick up cargoes bound overseas for transshipment to New York.

In Providence, the shore-side infrastructure that the plan requires is largely in place. The port, with its piers, mile-long bulkhead and recently redredged channel, now chiefly used — underused, more accurately — for such bulk cargoes as scrap metal, pulpwood and road salt, has plenty of space for loading trucks and trains. Because containers would be rolled off barges or specially designed ships, there would be no need for the looming overhead cranes (which we rather like, actually) that are a feature of most container ports.

Comments are closed.