Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

harbor and river shipping

Posted in new york harbor, short sea shipping by bowsprite on 2010/06/22

Short Sea Shipping is the use of small vessels to transport containerized cargo by water, using coastal and inland waterways. It is also going under the name of Marine Highway, the Blueway, Harbor and River shipping.

Waterborne freightage of cargo takes it off the roads, bridges and out of tunnels; it is the more economical, environmentally sound, and healthier method of goods transportation.

source: Texas Transportation Institute

Many people have envisioned and worked for this. What are SOME of the obstacles in NYHarbor?

I can’t imagine. We have bollards in place:

Trucking companies might get miffed and will want to shake a fist at the boats, but there are very few to target. As per the Jones Act, all vessels must be American made. That’s fine. We have shipyards that could use the work. It will cost more than a ship built in Asia. Yes, it will. And, not to fear: we have tugs & barges. We have schooners. We have intrepid kayakers.

We have the bollards, but few working piers or docks. Getting them built will run you into city, state and federal red tape, depending on the piece of waterfront you are looking at. Many town communities do not want traffic or riffraff like working mariners to mar their riverfront and views. One could float an eco-dock. Or, one could toss boxes of goods over the railing and run before the police come. You get fined $60 for biking on these walkways pictured above. How much would the fine be for cluttering it with baskets of apples and other produce from upstate, crates of dairy goods and wines from up the Hudson Valley, kegs of amazing Brooklyn beer, Christmas trees?

SO: boats, piers, docks, harbor tax, fines, TWIC fees for crew, dough to bail out crew (of course, US citizens!) when apprehended…money can handle those.

City, state, federal resistance…we’ll tweet you and let you know where to meet us with guitars and bongos, or to hold hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.” The absolute largest obstacle is cheap fuel. Invisible subsidies favor trucking and hide road-bridge-tunnel maintenance expenses. Trucks will bring food in from Florida to meet the cruise ships that left Florida to dock in our harbor. True true: florida oranges and grapefruits are better than our local varieties, however we have better dairy than them just upriver, and what farmlands we still have excellent produce, meats, beverages. How can it be that trucking goods that are available locally from across the nation is legal? or even profitable?

Changing people’s mindset that trucking is easier…oh, we will need a real miracle here. Join here if you’d like to help (still fledgling).

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14 Responses

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  1. JP said, on 2010/06/23 at 03:39

    We ought to use our water ways more for transporting heavy goods: in the UK we have a huge canal network.

    I suppose one drawback is the canal boats are too narrow for traditional containers and the distribution networks are designed around their size, whether for trucks, rail or container ship.

    • bowsprite said, on 2010/06/23 at 07:01

      and the straw bales! dont forget the straw!
      you’re much better there than here in using your waters for transport. We’re still using bollards for lawn decoration.

  2. Bob Easton said, on 2010/06/23 at 07:18

    Sure, lots of problems of scale, bureaucracy, and “tradition.” (the way we’ve always done it).

    Start small, prove it works, publicize and grow it. Select one trade, Asian food markets, fresh produce, shoes, whatever. Find one arrival terminal to work from and 2 or 3 already existent docks where there’s no red tape. Add 2 or 3 shuttle trucks working from those docks, and there’s a business. Keep accurate accounting that can be compared with the truck-it-all business that does the same thing.

    Yet, what do I know? I’m landlocked some distance from the 6th boro.

  3. Buck said, on 2010/06/23 at 10:04

    We have canals here in Upstate NY, too, but they are very underutilised by commercial interests, which is a shame.

    Bowsprite, how I loved reading ‘We have intrepid kayakers.’ All I could think about was Frogma standing on the flight deck of INTREPID with a very, very long paddle… Well done!

  4. tugster said, on 2010/06/23 at 10:23

    i have seen trailertrucks from the very rural town at lock 28 on the erie canal on 8th avenue in new york delivering hay to the horses (and there are many) pulling central park carriages and doing law enforcement service. hay . . . it’s another commodity coming downriver. so what might go upriver so that barges don’t have to return light? organic trash to be composted and put on farmfields upriver? anything else metro-NYC made and craved upstate?

  5. O Docker said, on 2010/06/23 at 15:48

    Of course, there’s also this alternative form of river shipping:

  6. Dennis @ Marine Electronics said, on 2010/06/23 at 20:49

    In-Land waterway transport is an absolute necessary piece of our transportation network. I’ve seen in-land waterways in the United States and western Europe used very effectively to move cargo out to larger vessels which are too large to manuver in-land.

  7. Mage Bailey said, on 2010/06/24 at 11:14

    On your area of the coast, you have waterways. Here north from the Sacramento River delta through Washington state, the west coast has waterways. Here in the south, we need more and modern tracking for trains. In and out of San Diego is on a rail bed laid in the 1800s when there are better places now.

    I love all this. Your thinking out loud stirs us all up. Passion begins change. Thank you.

  8. teresa said, on 2010/06/25 at 20:55

    There used to be a ton of container shipping thru the port of NY. Back when I was a kid in the ’60’s there was still a lot of it going on on the now non-existent/defunct docks below the Promenade in Bklyn Heights.

    Mostly what killed it were the(longshoremens) unions and their partnership w/ organized crime.

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  10. Ship Freight said, on 2010/08/31 at 07:43

    Water shipping is a great idea. It is cheap and best.

  11. [...] cars in DOGS (Dry Overseas Garaging Solutions).  Or local produce, brews, and milk products (SSS) coming down the Hudson on RABBITS ( Riverine Area Barged Box Initiatives for Transportation [...]

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  13. Ken said, on 2012/02/16 at 00:54

    I’m all for more ships on the waterways….


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