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October 01, 2010


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The New York City Math Teacher

A few minutes of googling turned up several interesting facts:

It is very hard to get reliable quotes for ship construction costs - so difficult that back in 1997 linear regression from a few known contracts was used to find ship building costs recently. (Lazy?)

UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific: a financing scheme for a mixed fleet of new-build small ocean going transports, ferries, landing craft, and tankers for service in the South Pacific. Simple linear regression on cost data for ships displacing more than 7500 tons, to find the costs of building ships displacing less than 1000 tons max.

Their conclusion?

86 ships - 9 45m vessels (three RORO passenger ferries, 3 tankers, two conventional passenger/cargo, and one landing craft), 15 35m vessels, 20 25m vessels, and 42 15m vessels would cost between 20 and 40 million dollars. This package, they said, could handle the transport of 9000 tons of cargo and 4700 people.

The report, titled "Study on Shipping and Port Capacities in the Island Developing Countries: Report of the Study on Policy Options for Replacing Ageing Ships in the Pacific Island Fleets" can be found at www.unescap.org/ttdw/Publications/TFS_pubs/Pub_1835/pub_1835_fulltext.pdf

How much of the pirogue traffic near Bandundu could this package replace?

Doug M.

Probably not much, because most of the ships would draw too deep a draft.

But that's niggling; for a similar price, you could surely buy a comparable fleet of shallow-draft river craft.

The $20 to $40 million figure: add 50% to that for inflation, then a bit more for the cost of bringing anything into the interior of the Congo. (Deserves a post of its own.) So, more like $40 to $70 million? And that doesn't include maintenance and spare parts, which are a big deal here. Or finding trained people to run it -- though I suspect that's doable; Congo does have mechanics.

In any event, Congo simply does not have $40 to $70 million to spare. A kindly donor... maybe. But a donor would want to contribute a few river craft, and wait to see how things worked out before ramping up.

Key point: who would you give the stuff to? The government? As noted, ONATRA was pretty bad -- corrupt, none too competent. But you can't just give stuff to the private sector. Sell it? The private sector here doesn't have a lot of cash on hand.

You could maybe put together something like a lease-to-own system for private operators. Or get a donor to guarantee bank loans for them... hm.

Doug M.

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