GREEN SOLUTIONS IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
SEACOR AMH’s new container-on-barge service has proven to be both environmentally and economically beneficial.
In the world of logistics, hope is starting to float.
SEACOR AMH is answering client demands for diverse, safe, efficient and cost-effective methods to move cargo through its innovative container-on-barge service running on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
What is container-on-barge, exactly?
Well, think of your standard 18-wheeler rolling down Interstate 10. It’s pretty much like that except it’s on the water, and instead of hauling one container, a barge can handle more than a dozen containers at a time – lessening the environmental thumbprint caused by trucks and positively impacting profit margins for businesses in and around the Port of South Louisiana. Though loaded with pluses, this type of intermodal freight transit remains relatively limited in the United States.
“This (container-on-barge program) is really a separate and distinct use of our pooled resources,” says Rich Teubner, Vice President of SEACOR AMH. The company is part of SEACOR Holdings Inc.’s Inland River Services Group (SCF), which owns a fleet of covered and open hopper barges, inland river towboats and barge fleeting and terminal operations.
“We’re moving empty containers into the Baton Rouge area and then moving the fulls back down to New Orleans for export. It gets the containers around the congestion of I-10 and the port access roads. With this, we take it right from the barges to the dock in New Orleans and offload it. “We saw this as a viable opportunity to use our assets – a different solution to combat congestion.”
Teubner also said that the container-on-barge program is better suited for certain areas compared to others. Before venturing farther south, SEACOR AMH tested this container-on-barge project on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in central Mississippi with positive results.
Why does the program seem like a natural fit in south Louisiana? Part of it is the infrastructure already in place with ports from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, but mostly it’s the demand from the blossoming chemical producers dotted along the river. Close to 90 chemical refineries operate within a 100-mile radius of the Port of South Louisiana, most of which are substantially upping production volume and expanding/updating facilities in the near future.
“Here in the Baton Rouge area, companies like Shintec are producing large amounts of export goods, so there’s the volume to support this type of endeavor,” Teubner says. “It mitigates congestion and it’s green. It’s a solution to carbon emissions, reducing the particulates in the air.”
At present time, SEACOR AMH has six barges available for this program. Collectively, they’re capable of moving more than 200 truckloads of product at any given time down “a natural aquatic highway,” as Teubner calls it.
Though chock-full of benefits, the container-on-barge program does pose challenges for SEACOR AMH officials – challenges they’re tackling head on.
“It’s a terminal operation, so there’s a lot more that goes into it,” Teubner says. “Once the containers are on the barge, and the barge moves, it takes care of itself, because it’s using the same pilots, the same barges. It’s all the support systems that go into place…that’s the biggest missing piece. In Europe, you see these inland intermodal hubs and they’re not readily available in the United States. So that’s what we do – we put that together.
“We understand the logistical problem of allocating the empty containers to support the export market or vice versa – bringing the imports in and then returning the empty containers to the market.”
The container-on-barge initiative echoes the companywide philosophy of SEACOR AMH and SCF, Teubner says, namely, providing the customer with not only various solutions but solutions that contain value.
“These are two traditionally different environments that we’ve brought together,” Teubner says. “It’s the industrial bulk commodity shipping concepts used on the inland rivers, and we’re marrying them with the intermodal connections that you normally only see on the rail or deep-draft ports. So when you boil it down, it’s not new, it’s just different.”
By William Kalec