September 2015

Except for the passenger ship terminal above 42nd street, commercial ship operations in Manhattan have pretty much come to an end.

 

One of the last commercial shipping terminals to be built on Manhattan was Marine and Aviation Pier 40. It was built in 1962 at a cost of $18 million expressly for the use of Holland America Line, which for the previous 73 years had docked at Hoboken. For its time, it was ultra modern and designed to handle passengers and cargo.

 

Holland America Line signed a 20 year lease at $1.2 million per year, but by 1966 the passenger trade was rapidly declining and cargo trade was containerizing which made Manhattan a terribly unsuitable location. In 1966 Holland America Line merged its cargo business into ACL and they moved to Port Newark in New Jersey, and around the same time the passenger ships moved to the passenger ship terminal.

 

Whenever my father passed the terminal he would tell me that this move was the worst real estate deal ever made by Dutchmen. Which means that Manhattan is both the location of the best Dutch real estate deal and the worst Dutch real estate deal ever.

 

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As surveyors we rush around the world on short notice, arrive at some distant port and then are asked to look at a damage situation or some technical or operational problem. We crawl into tight and dirty spaces and end op taken pictures or measurements of broken components.

 

Often we rush back to catch the next plane. But every now and then you get a glimpse of something that makes you realize that technology is a wonderful thing. It is immensely creative and, if we are lucky, we technologists get to put our heart and souls into creating objects that in many ways are indistinguishable from the greatest art created by man and that can leave a lasting impression.

 

I was dealing with a crankshaft damage on a large diesel engine and when I stood up inside the lifted entablature I felt like I was inside a Cathedral of Internal Combustion. It was quite beautiful; it radiated power and passion by its creators and provided a nice space for a little contemplation.

 

 

 

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