Indicator: Full Port : Planet Money A listener spots hundreds of commercial transport boats idle in Singapore.
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Indicator: Full Port

All ready but no place to go. Mike Seltzer hide caption

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Mike Seltzer

Mike S. writes:

I have an indicator for you. While flying over Singapore's southern port area I noticed hundreds of ships at anchor in the straight. Over dinner, me and some friends hypothesized about why so many vessels, the heavy hitters in commercial transport, are sitting idly near the largest port in the world. We figured they couldn't be just waiting for a spot; such inefficiency would doubtful be visible in a port which moves more volume than any other. The most logical conclusion we could come up with (which isn't saying much) is that they're just on a layover--if you will--enjoying the night life of Singapore before they move on to their next port.

The next day a friend of mine asked an employee at the port and the answer was so simple I couldn't believe we didn't think of it: They aren't needed! Demand is so low that hundreds of ships are sitting empty like taxis lined up with "for hire" illuminated.

I flew over the port again the next day and decided to try to count the boats. I stopped at 200.