Opinion: Cargo ships - Jobs floating at sea


Cargo ships waiting to unload at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, could keep some of America's store shelves bare for a while. These two ports handle the bulk of cargo coming from China. Cargo keeps coming from China, making the congestion craziness only worse. The dozens of ships floating in the Pacific are carrying products that used to be some of America's good-paying jobs.

Today, about 90% of non-bulk cargo worldwide is transported by container. Modern container ships carry more than 21,000 TEUs and rival crude oil tankers as the largest commercial vessels on the ocean. A TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) is a measure of volume in units of 20-foot-long containers. If you have ever seen any of these cargo ships come into the port at Savannah, Georgia, or these California ports, then you know it's mind blowing the amount of cargo stacked and transported across the ocean. The weight of the cargo is estimated between 15,000 to 18,000 tons on most of the ships.

General cargo vessels carry packaged items like chemicals, foods, furniture, machinery, motor vehicles, shoes, clothing and more. Dry bulk carriers carry coal, grain, ore and other similar products. Reefer ships are refrigerated ships which specifically carry perishable commodities such as fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. Roll-on ships are designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers and railroad cars, that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels.

China's exports to the United States were $452.58 billion during 2020, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. The top goods exported from China to the U.S. and their total values for 2018 were electrical machinery ($152 billion), machinery ($117 billion), furniture and bedding ($35 billion), toys and sports equipment ($27 billion) and plastics ($19 billion).

Japan's exports to the United States were $118.79 billion during 2020, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. These products are vehicles, machinery, electronics, optical and medical, aircraft, pharmaceuticals, plastics, rubbers, toys, games and sports equipment.

United States imports from Germany were $117.39 billion during 2020, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. We import most of the same products from Germany as we do Japan, including $78 billion in mineral fuels, including oil.

We continue to hear about all the job openings in the United States. Amazon needs employees, Federal Express, UPS and all the trucking companies are begging for workers. I've seen several big banners on trucks begging for drivers at a starting salary of $2,500 a week. Walmart advertises all the time for truckers with a beginning salary of $84,000 a year. There is obviously a lot of work in delivering goods from the shipping ports of America. The shipping ports are all products made in China, Japan, Germany and other places. We have and are pumping these countries with billions and billions of dollars.

We hear a lot about infrastructure. We need good roads and bridges, internet, new pipelines throughout America to carry our water supply and American-made chips for our cars, computers and phones and more. We also must start making all the products just mentioned in America. Our president and Congress must give companies every opportunity in reasonable tax breaks and incentives to compete with foreign countries. If we can bring manufacturing back to the United States, then we will return to real jobs in this country that pay enough money for people to raise a family, own a car and save for retirement. Until this happens, Americans will only see increasing financial hardships and more jobs floating away.

Dr. Glenn Mollette is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store and Minister's Guidebook insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com.