Sinking coastal shipping is just plain dumb

Coastal shipping is the most energy efficient means of moving freight. A ship consumes 75 – 80 percent less fuel than a truck per tonne hauled. It’s just got to be the way to go.

The United States finally seems to be seeing this. A Bill before the US Congress, the Marine Highway Bill spearheaded by Stas Margaronis, president of Santa Maria Shipowning & Trading, proposes Congress to allocate $50 million a year for five years to finance federal loan guarantees sufficient to build a fleet of 66 ships to ply the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts.

With 300 53-foot containers each, the coastal ships will remove 20,000 truckloads daily off coastal US highways – yes 20,000 truckloads daily! The removal of the trucks will relieve traffic congestion and reduce maintenance, repair and upgrades needed to accommodate those large trucks.

And the project will create 20,000 jobs. It’s an ideal Green New Deal project to stimulate the economy at the same time as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing dependence on oil.

This sort of project would work well in New Zealand too, as we are an island nation where every city has or is close to a port. It is the kind of proposal we should expect to see in the amended Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding (for some strange reason, coastal shipping is officially categorised as land transport).

Sadly, it seems this is not to be. Sue Bradford took a look at the draft Government Policy Statement this morning, only to discover that funding for domestic sea freight development had been slashed by $27m to just $3m over the next 3 years.

I find the shortsightedness of National’s roads, roads and more roads approach impossible to fathom. It defies all logic, and raises suspicions that they have been bought by the road transport lobby.

Proposed ratios of spending on roads to alternatives to roads under the document blow out to a maximum of $9 : $1!

But it’s not too late to have your say. You have a week. Get the submissions on the stupidity of this draft policy statement rolling in to gps@transport.govt.nz before 5pm on Thursday 2 April.