Container-on-barge service positions Port NOLA for resins export growth
A container is off-loaded from a barge that traveled down the Mississippi River from the Baton Rouge area to Port NOLA’s Nashville Avenue Terminal Complex.
The successful launch of a regular container-on-barge shuttle service has the Port of New Orleans well-positioned for supporting significant growth in exporting plastic resins. Year to date the container-on-barge service, which began in Spring 2016, has moved more than 25,900 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) between Memphis, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, according to SEACOR AMH, the marine transportation company that operates the service. More than 500 TEUs from various carriers were shipped by barge from Baton Rouge to New Orleans just during the week of August 7, 2017, registering the highest weekly volumes for the service thus far.
The container-on-barge shuttle service is also meeting a market need by repositioning empty containers from Memphis to Baton Rouge for resin to be loaded. The containers are then shipped by barge along the Mississippi River to Port NOLA for export to overseas markets. CMA CGM, the world’s third-largest container carrier which operates direct weekly container service from Port NOLA to Asia, Northern Europe, South America and other global markets, has been participating in the service since its launch, and other carriers that serve Port NOLA are taking an interest.
“We are pleased to see that that container-on-barge service continues to grow and it offers our shippers another option for inland transportation. We look forward to larger numbers as the projected growth in resins is realized,” said Brandy D. Christian, Port NOLA President and CEO.
Petrochemical companies along the Lower Mississippi River have announced more than $81 billion in infrastructure investments in new and expansion projects. Industry experts predict an estimated growth of 400,000 TEUs of plastic resin exports from the Gulf region between 2017 and 2020.
Another opportunity created from the container-on-barge service is the February 2017 MOU signing between Port NOLA’s Board of Commissioners and the St. Louis Regional Freightway aimed at fostering economic growth. The St. Louis area ports have demonstrated the ability to handle container-on-barge traffic and the Freightway hopes to swiftly capitalize on the new service. A day before the MOU signing, a bi-state area (Missouri and Illinois) freight group visited the SEACOR AMH Terminal located within the Port of Greater Baton Rouge to tour container-on-barge loading and to learn more about the SEACOR operations which includes terminal services in the St. Louis area.
The container-on-barge shuttle service is another example of Port NOLA solidifying its reputation as America’s Most Intermodal Port. Port NOLA’s Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal provides on-dock rail access and has a capacity of moving 160,000 TEUs per year by rail.
In addition to providing an alternative logistics solution for cargo owners, the container-on-barge service also provides a benefit to the community, according to Richard Teubner, SEACOR AMH Vice President.
“Container-on-barge traffic reduces the amount of diesel emissions and congestion on surface streets and interstates that can occur on both ends of the supply chain in the surface transportation system,” said Teubner.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) awarded Port NOLA and the Port of Greater Baton Rouge a $1.75 million grant for specialized container loading equipment to jump-start the service. SEACOR AMH and Ports America, the terminal operator at the Port of New Orleans and Port of Greater Baton Rouge, were strategic partners in obtaining the grant. According to figures from a U.S. Department of Transportation study, there is a savings to the State of Louisiana of $118 per round-trip 40-foot container between New Orleans and Baton Rouge if moved by barge rather than over the road.