New Faster Ships bring CHINESE Products to AMERICA…at what Cost?
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More products from China, that are delivered faster to American shores, may create some advantages for major importers like Wal-Mart, but the national impact could be an accelerant to manufacturing job loss. A new generation of Cargo Ships can transport goods across the Pacific to California in less than 5 Days. This shaves 4 days of the typical trip that used to run 9 days at sea. Simply, the massive new ships travels at over 30 knots vs the older ones at under 20 knots. Wal-Mart commissioned the first ship and it is one of three with the other two scheduled for release in 2012. Over 90% of Wal-Mart products are made in China. Given the speed, these super ships are now competitive even when carrying some perishable goods. The sobering reality is that the world has literally become smaller when perishables are shipped from half of the way around the world vs grown locally, regionally…or even domestically.
The new Global Energy Revolution conversations often center around CleanTech, but there may be an equally pressing need to rethinking WHERE products are manufactured for localized efficiency as well as WHAT is manufactured. The big ships may make a bad idea even worse. More products that are designed for disposability over durability and light weight vs robust sustainability have a life-cycle impact of adding to the landfills. Think of the imported toaster oven at Wal-Mart that is $39.95. The units are ‘”Value Engineered” to be light weight for shipping purposes, so the gauge of the metal is much thinner than in previous years, and there is far more plastic than metal all around. In the American manufacturing boom of the post war era, there were products, like appliances, that would actually get repaired if damaged. Look around for an Appliance Repair shop today and you will quickly see that there is cultural muscle memory for throwing things away when they break. It is often literally cheaper to buy a new product than to fix an old one. The life cycle from purchase to trash of many consumer products is no more than 3 to 5 years, and in many cases the warranty is just a single year. So, when an American sees a photo of a fully loaded ship coming in from China, he or she may be looking at the contents of a future landfill just a few years down the road – in effect trash on the high seas.
The size of the new ships, the speed, and the macro-economic implications, may help inspire some Americans to rethink what to purchase and where it comes from. One American entrepreneur has done the opposite of Wal-Mart and sent the ships back to China by bringing the manufacturing home to America. “We moved our Commercial LED Tube Manufacturing from China to Boyertown, PA to increase the quality control and reduce the shipping time and cost given that our system is engineered for longevity with a deep fin aluminum heat sink.” says Charlie Szoradi, CEO of LEDSavingSolutions and its new www.IndependenceLED.com lighting offering. By shifting manufacturing to America, the company exchanged the hand assembly work in China for multi-million dollar automated assembly lines in America. The hand assembly yielded less than 20,000 units each month, while the automated assembly has the capacity to produce over 200,000 units each month. In the context of the shipping speed conversation, this trumps any accelerated transpacific time savings with an increase in the production yield by a factor of 10 on American shores. Plus, for the tech savvy readers, the automated systems place between 18,000 and 40,000 diodes an hour on the LED aluminum printed circuit boards. The Made in America criteria includes domestic and international components, and the impact on job creation has a tremendous ripple effect. Szoradi goes on to say, “Beyond the manufacturing, when our EAGLE LED Tubes are completed, we pack them in boxes that are made by Americans, put them on trucks that are driven by Americans, deliver them to properties for installation by Americans, and we save 50% or more on electricity for Americans.” Since the company is located in South Eastern, PA vs China it is central to the Northeast Corridor with the end users in the high density urban areas from Washington, DC to Boston, MA. As the sun rises any morning and LED Tubes move from the factory floor in Pennsylvania up or down 1-95 to the loading docks of a Commercial properties in the Northeast, the big ships in China are just getting loaded with containers and the tug boats are starting to drag them out of the Chinese harbors. They have 5 whole days to go in their journey, vs a few hours on a truck.
“Think Global. Act Local” – The message of the early green movement may resonate once again in the context of the new green economy.
Details on the higher speed Cargo Ships commissioned by Wal-Mart:
Cargo Net Weight: 123,200 Tons
Cargo Crane Rigs: 11 (for simultaneous unloading)
Unloading Time: 2 Hours
Beam Width: 207 ft
Length: 1,302 ft (Longer than Aircraft Carriers
Crew: 13 People (For Perspective an Aircraft Carrier this size has 5,000 crew members)
Course: Strictly Transpacific
Cruise speed: 31 knots.
Self Floating Sections: 5
Command Bridge Height: 10 Stories
Construction Cost: US $145,000,000+
Special Features: Silicone painting applied to the ship bottom reduces water
resistance and saves 317,000 gallons of diesel per year.