Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Recession Armada and Air Force

A fascinating article in Britain's Daily Mail describes the enormous armada of cargo ships that have been idled off the coast of Signapore for the summer (thanks for the tip, Jim).

Above: idle cargo ships off the coast of Signapore.

"Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater," writes reporter Simon Parry. "Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers - all should be steaming fully laden between China, Britain, Europe and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009."

Of course, the pandemonium of 2009 turned out not to be the sort where frenzied shoppers mobbed shopping malls. Asia won't underwrite our credit card debt and lousy mortgages anymore, which means we can't afford to by container-loads of their manufactured goods.

The Daily Mail article also notes that these ships are being manned by skeleton crews, doing basic maintenance and guarding against piracy. What an incredibly lonely job that must be - it must be kind of like working as a salesperson at Sears (right: inside the Schuylkill Mall, courtesy of

The cargo armada off of Signapore isn't the only idled fleet of the recession, though. Seeing all those ships reminded me of Don Delilo's Underworld, a novel in which there's a character who re-paints and arranges abandoned airliners as huge landscape art pieces in the Mojave desert. Such aircraft boneyards really do exist in the desert southwest, and sure enough, they're filling with new arrivals during this recession. Via an April CBS News report:
The number of planes in storage has jumped 29 percent in the past year to 2,302, according to aerospace data firm Ascend Worldwide. That includes 930 parked by U.S. operators alone....

That makes for busy times at facilities like Evergreen Maintenance Center near Marana. Its super-sized hangar fits a 747, and there are plenty of active planes on hand, including one 747 used to test Pratt & Whitney engines and another converted to fight forest fires.

But outside there's a ghost fleet of 204 parked planes. Some of Northwest's retired 747s are here. Planes from defunct ATA Airlines, 767s from Air Sahara and MaxJet, and a hodgepodge of other airlines from around the world are here, too.
Here's a glimpse through the fence from Flickr user DannyMcL:

And here's another particularly good photo of the Mojave airliner storage lot. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Andrew Riely said...

CNeal, I hope you will be pleased to know that my students are reading this article as part of our unit on globalization. Vigorous North is quite a geographical resource. Thanks!