Last week’s shipping disaster involving the Panama-flagged Ever Given delayed transit of over 400 vessels, with lost trade and added costs totaling an estimated $400 million per hour.
In the wake of this crisis stemming from the accidental grounding of a massive 1300 foot container ship that blocked the Suez Canal, the Biden administration moved quickly to add $17 billion in its recently revealed infrastructure package to prevent such an occurrence from happening in the country’s 25,000 miles of inland waterways.
As the crisis grew in the Suez region last week, frantic planning sessions in the White House West Wing were added to the budgeting process to fold potential appropriations into the larger package.
An administration spokesperson explained: “The grounding of a ¼ mile ship within US borders was something we frankly had not contemplated – – so, guided by Rahm Emanuel’s credo ‘never waste a crisis’, so we did what we felt was necessary. Many canals are well over their 50-year planned life span and so we feel this is an appropriate upgrade”. The dimensions of the Ever Given are the administration’s benchmark.
President Biden himself said: “We all saw this disaster happen – – you saw it, I saw it, the world saw it. I could see it coming. Now all eyes are on us. The Erie Canal – you know that song – it’s part of who we are. C’mon man, it’s pretty clear that we can’t let a massive ship like that get stuck in the U.S. If this Administration can’t figure out how to get money for this project, who will?”.
The challenge is daunting, considering that the Ever Given is 1312 feet long, 193 feet wide, and requires about 47 feet of depth. The depth of the average canal in the U.S. is 9 feet.
Details of this $17B budget component have not been revealed, but a spokesperson said: “It would involve things like dredging and widening the Mississippi and other waterways, enlarging many of the 150-year-old locks to accommodate a ship occupying over a quarter million square feet, and of course addressing the related need for added restrooms, eating facilities and gift shops at major ports”.
When asked about the related cost to then build all new bridges and roads to service these expanded waterways, the spokesman said: “That will be Phase 2 – – we’ll address that during the second Biden administration”.