Congressman Richard J. Welch (R., Calif.) wanted to know why scarce steel was being used to build 30 merchant ships in U.S. yards for the Dutch Government. To this logical question he got a logical answer. Said the Maritime Commission's Vice Admiral Emery S. Land: when the ships are completed they will be assigned to the United Nations shipping pool and used for whatever service the pool considers necessary. Only after the pool is disbanded will the Dutch get their new ships.
The Dutch, whose prewar merchant fleet was the world's seventh largest (1,532 ships, 2,972,871 tons), had shown their usual perspicacity by placing their orders early. During the war the Dutch have lost 50% of their trim ships, including the crack liners Statendam, Veendam. New ships will be needed to haul reconstruction materials and rawmaterials to Holland. In the teeming Netherlands East Indies the only means of communications between the many islands is by coastal steamer.
Therefore, money for the new ships was among the first appropriations the Dutch made from the $100 million loan (at 1½% interest) they recently got from Wall Street bankers. Orders were placed for ten C-3 type cargo vessels of 10,000 tons each, from the Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., and 20 small coastal ships from the Albina Engine & Machine Works, at Portland, Ore. Shipping men estimated the total cost at $50 millionalmost twice as much as it would have cost to build the ships in Dutch yards before the war.
But when the Japs are booted out of the Netherlands East Indies, the coastal ships will repay their high cost. Their job will be to nose into the ports and bring out cargoes of badly needed crude rubber, tin, quinine and spices for the world.