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From Site Selection magazine, July 2019

Container-on-Barge Could Be Coming to a Marine Highway Near You

The Ports of Indiana have moved their share of steel coils over the inland waterways of the United States. Containers-on-barge are next.
Photo courtesy of Ports of Indiana

The Ports of Indiana — comprising ports in Jeffersonville (near Louisville), Burns Harbor (on Lake Michigan) and Mount Vernon (near Evansville) — received recognition in April from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao for its leadership role in the development and advancement of the Marine Highway M-35/M-70 Container-on-Barge Service on the Ohio and Upper Mississippi Rivers.

This project is a new container-on-barge service being developed by members of Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals Association (IRPT) along the inland river system connecting ports and terminals on the Ohio River and the Upper Mississippi River. The project will support a waterway transportation network on the river system that will have the capability to deliver vital goods among three major gateway ports — the Port of Indiana-Mount Vernon; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Development of this new project involves several IRPT members working collaboratively to address the challenges industries face with the logistics of moving freight,” said Port of Indiana-Mount Vernon Port Director Phil Wilzbacher. “As the volume of freight continues to grow, this project will reduce carbon emissions and highway maintenance, lower transportation costs and provide economic opportunities in the region. We fully anticipate that the service will offer shippers transportation alternatives by utilizing our Marine Highway network.”

“IRPT is proud of our members and other industry professionals seeking innovative transportation opportunities such as container on barge shipping in order to alleviate congestion on surface transportation and provide an alternative to current rail supply chain routes” said Aimee Andres, IRPT executive director. “Using container-on-barge offers not only benefits individual shippers by way of comparable pricing and modal competition, the service offers many benefits to the nation, such as savings from surface transportation improvements. Most importantly, it fulfills the nation’s increased freight needs with little impact to communities.”

There are over 12,000 miles of navigable rivers in the United States. One standard 15-tow barge moves the same amount of freight as 225 rail cars or 1,050 tractor trailers, with far less pollution. Andres noted river transportation of goods is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly form of transportation in the United States, and said IRPT strongly endorses the initiative to bring intermodal containers to the inland river system.

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