Inland ports offer muscle to moving America’s freight

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTInland waterways already play a significant role in the commerce of the United States by moving a wide host of commodities as well as containerized freight throughout its 12,000-miles navigable system. That system spans the Mississippi River, the Ohio River Basin, the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, and the Pacific Coast systems, and connects with 41 states, including all those east of the Mississippi River and 16 state capitals.
With the expansion of the Panama Canal, to be completed in 2014, many inland ports are being positioned to attract more traffic to relieve congestion at coastal ports where expansion is often constrained. Consequently, many inland ports are focusing on revamping their terminals to accommodate more container traffic, although bulk and break bulk cargoes will remain their bread and butter.
Obtaining federal and state dollars to improve inland ports is constrained these days by budgetary issues. But their role in U.S. commerce in the inland “waterway” highway cannot be underestimated. In this article, AJOT will look at five of the top inland ports, as designated by the Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center, based on trip ton-miles: 1. Huntington, WV; 2. St. Louis, MO; 3. Pittsburgh, PA; 4. Memphis, TN; 5. Cincinnati, OH.
Huntington, WV
Handling some 77 million tons of cargo in 2007, the Port of Huntington Tri-State is regarded one of the largest and busiest inland ports in the United States. Located on the Ohio River with facilities in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, this inland port ranks second in tonnage to all river ports within the United States.
Some 60 percent of its traffic consists of coal transferred onto barges from the railroads, 30 percent encompasses petroleum/chemical products produced by the Marathon Petroleum Co. oil refinery in nearby Catlettsburg, KY and Huntington, WV, and 10 percent comes from other products such as plastic.
The Catlettsburg Refinery produces more than 212,000 barrels per day and, on average, processes 2 percent of the U.S. oil supply daily.
A few developments have been proposed to help facilitate the movement of trade in the Huntington region. One is the Prichard Intermodal Terminal in Wayne County, WV; the other is the Port Huntington Terminals project in Huntington.
The Prichard Intermodal Terminal was planned to be located alongside the Heartland Corridor, the Norfolk Southern (NS) double stacked railway and trucking project that improves delivery of goods from the Port of Virginia to Chicago. Uncertainty about the economy, politics, and other issues, however, delayed its development.
Don Perdue, executive director of the Wayne County Economic Development Authority Inc. (Wceda), blames “a lack of direction from our previous governor; possible infighting between our state port authority, economic development agency and the Department of Transportation (DOT) and, most prominently, a disaffection that developed between our state authorities and NS under the previous [gubernatorial] administration. In short, the Administration blamed NS and NS blames the Administration.”
If eventually developed, the facility would involve acquiring of about 50-60 acres of land near Kenova and I-64 to create a distribution center for the material coming in the double-stacked containers from the intermodal facility.
The proposed materials handling dock at The Port Huntington Terminals would be used to load and/or unload jumbo barges, and other barges of varying dimensions for commodities such as forest and wood products, iron and steel, non-ferrous and fabricated metals, iron ore, iron steel waste and scrap, non-ferrous metallic ores, waste and scrap, manufactured goods, equipment and machinery, sand, gravel, stone and crushed rock, roadway treatment salts, slag; container barges and pallets.
There is no update, however, regarding its development.
St. Louis, MO
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American Journal of Transportation