The U.S. Maritime Administration last month published a report, Inventory of American Intermodal Equipment 1986." On 50 pages it presents detailed information on U.S. steamship companies, the container carrying capacity of their ships, and the intermodal equipment (containers and chassis) they own. Barge carrying and roll-on roll-off companies and vessels are also included. The report also lists U.S. leasing companies and their equipment.
In its foreword, the report, compiled by Marad's Office of Port and Intermodal Development, says:"This report has been prepared to meet, in part, the requirements of the Department of Defense, expressed to the Maritime Administration for current data on commercial U.S. intermodal equipment . . .
"This report also is consistent with Marad's mandated responsibilities to promote the development of the U.S. port and marine terminal industry to meet the requirements of U.S. foreign and domestic waterborne commerce, and to plan for the utilization of port facilities, shipping services and marine containers in wartime or national emergency situations."
With this kind of an introduction, one must assume that this is a very important report, with particular significance for the military. The importance is underlined by the cover page that lists as publishers: Department of Transportation - Elizabeth Hanford Dole, secretary; and Maritime Administration - John Gaughan, maritime administrator.
One should think that a report with such credentials, and for the purpose as stated in its introduction, must be correct and accurate. However, the opposite is true.
As is the case with all statistical reports, the summaries, sub-totals and grand totals are the most sought after. And there, on page 48 of this report, we find that Puerto Rico Management Inc. is the second largest U.S. container owner, with 72,798 units, but next to last among 12 companies when this wealth of containers is expressed in twenty-foot equivalents: only 13,304. This last figure, of course, appears to be much closer to the actual facts.
Even if we conceded this to be a typographical error that escaped proofreading, the sub-total, listing all containers of U.S. leasing companies at 722,610 instead of 1,282,281 should have been noticed, as well as that of TEUs, which lists 1,449,295, instead of 1,679,662.
Other figures lead to confusion too. The report lists a total of 253,510 container chassis and 3,226 "shipborne" barges (LASH, Seabee). However, when we simply add the numbers as listed we arrive at 256,310 container chassis and 2,686 barges.
All this could be the work of uninterested government paper pushers who just wait out the required number of years so that they can retire with comfortable government pensions.
What cannot be excused, however, is the listing of Sea Containers as an U.S. container leasing company. Sea Containers, which is, after Gelco-CTI, the world's second largest container leasing firm, is and has always been a British company.