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Goods On Your Shelves

Updated on January 5, 2010

Super Container Ships Sitting Unused

Richard Perry's Sinnopix photo of the ghost fleet of commercial container ships near Singapore
Richard Perry's Sinnopix photo of the ghost fleet of commercial container ships near Singapore

Got Shoes?

At first glance the sight of a massive fleet of container ships "bigger than the U.S. and British navies combined but having no crew, no cargo and no destination" as reported by Simon Perry of MailOnline ( last year, might not be anything more than a curiosity to you. You might ask why it was a serious concern in 2009 or even still now? It was because America has no manufacturing base for all intensive purposes. Virtually all the goods which you purchase off the shelves in your markets & dry goods stores come from overseas. It takes time for orders to be made, orders to be processed, ships to arrive in recieving ports, transport to occur oversea highways, goods to arrive in American ports, be offloaded, and then trucked to distribution centers who in turn ship them out to individual suppy chains and other stores.

So it appeared last year that massive numbers of orders had not been recieved. Just pause for a moment and consider what sorts of goods come from overseas. I can think of several critical ones bound for a people who were even then preparing for this winter, ones like, shoes, toothbrushes, socks, underwear, coats, and so on. That doesn't even touch on the entertainment industry goods or critical machine parts and electronics parts for important repairs of items here. I think you get the idea now. We are incredibly dependent health and welfare-wise on all the items which are manufactured over-seas. Yet we were remarkably fortunate for not encountering any seriously noticeable shortages.

One exception to any shortages was that many of the packages of food on the shelves were shrunk to smaller sizes. One might hypothesize that the smaller sized packaging equated to less space needed for transport. This however is doubtful as the bulk quantity of food product used by most American families were not likely any different at any point in 2009 or even now.

These ships too, have a limited life-span. Anything which sits in salt water gets welded. The owners of these behemoths cannot afford to have any of these just sitting. Yet these ships weren't even being diverted to other ports for other purposes. I do wonder why (I think this is very important in light of the bigger picture of what is happening in America). Could it be that they were getting paid to just sit like that?

Remember that if our inventories of materials are going to be available throughout the off season then they have to be moving between the source and output locations months ahead of time. If a quarter of materials did not move then what happened? Will there be distinct shortages probable on the shelves this spring or even later in January or February? How many out there will be caught off guard and hit hard if there are severe shortages of goods late this winter? Sure we can get by for a few weeks or even a month or two if push comes to shove. Despite our problems we're all still fairly well off when it comes to basic prosperity in comparison to much of the world.


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