Yachts Will Save America's Middle Class!

This post is by AlterNet reader Eddie Torres.

Depressed due to a recent job loss? You're not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US manufacturing sectors suffered 4,272 mass firing events and generated 583,125 new unemployment claims in 2006. Believe it or not, the US is set to lose its role as the world's top overall manufacturer.

In 2020.

Yes, China will eventually take over first place. But its current share of global manufacturing output is 12.1%. America's share? 22.2%. According to a Global Insight study, the US share will remain above 20% until at least 2024.



The three largest US manufacturers of boats 8 meters (26 feet) or longer - Brunswick, Marine Products, and Hunter Marine - will combine for $3.24 billion in 2007 projected sales. That beats the next largest manufacturers in Italy ($1.65 billion) and France ($900 million) by a nautical mile.

Annual sales in the "leisure boat business" are at $25 billion and growth is 5% to 10% per year. When asked why yacht manufacturing hasn't been relocated to low-wage countries like China, Paolo Vitelli (CEO of Italian boat builder Azmut-Benetti) said "…a modern boat includes many kinds of sophisticated items which are unlikely to be made in China."

Such as?

  • LRADs. Long Range Accoustic Devices, made in San Diego by American Technology Corporation (ATC), are in use across the maritime world by supertankers, container ships, and yachts as anti-pirate weapons. LRADs deliver 150 decibels of sound up to 300 meters. According to Carl Gruenler from ATC, "you definitely don't want to be within 100 meters of the noise."

  • SEAL teams. Paul Allen's yacht, the Octopus (413 feet / 126 meters), requires a crew of 60 - "including a troop of former US navy security specialists". China just doesn't have the overseas clandestine action experience necessary to offer these kinds of services to billionaires. Yet.

  • Shadow yachts. Allen, when the Octopus ran out of storage space, was forced to shop for a back-up yacht that could haul extra luggage, smaller boats, a mini-submarine, jet-skis, motorbikes and a Humvee. Kind of like a floating garage. Floating garage technology is not common in China or other low-wage countries. Yet.

Other key systems still made in high-wage countries like the US include sophisticated diesel engines and electronic navigation systems.

Yachts also indirectly support other key US sectors that are difficult to relocate or outsource, like Hollywood. Peaceful Fish, an advertising and product placement consultancy, offers an annual Global Film Financing Workshop at Cannes aboard the yacht "El Bravo", where any fellow yacht owner can become the next Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sam Simon, or Michael Eisner.

So, lost your assembly line job in Flint, Michigan? Your next career move is painfully obvious: buy an American-made yacht, sail it to Cannes, and let the money rain down from the heavens. You'd be stupid not to.

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