Ingram towboat hauls containers on barge

On Thursday, the Ingram Barge Co. towboat Miss Shirley arrived at America’s Central Port in Granite City, Ill., transporting containers via barge as part of a demonstration to show the viability of intermodal river transportation.

“Currently our nation’s highways and railways are operating near full capacity, while our inland waterways are vastly underutilized,” said Dan Mecklenborg, senior vice president, chief legal officer, for Ingram. “We know there is substantial room to grow in transporting goods on the rivers with minimal investment. And the inland waterways network is the safest and most environmentally friendly mode of transporting cargo in the U.S.”

America’s Central Port officials wanted to emphasize the importance of transporting goods via container on barge and to raise awareness of the capabilities of intermodal river transportation. 

“The Maritime Administration predicts the U.S. will need to move an additional 14 billion tons of cargo by 2050 to accommodate population growth,” said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. “This means we will need to almost double our freight movement capacity within 35 years. If we are to meet this demand, remain competitive in the global marketplace, and reduce our carbon footprint, then the inland waterway system should be used as a competitive option.”  

The transportation of goods, like agricultural commodities, construction materials, or consumer goods, via intermodal containers on the inland river system could serve cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, Ky., Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh.

The trial run began at the Paducah (Ky.) McCracken County Riverport Authority, utilizing the Paducah Riverport Authority’s flat-top, Linden-Comansa tower crane to load the 20′ containers onto the Ingram barge. Ingram has been working closely with the Paducah Riverport Authority to prepare and plan for this test run.  

Ingram and the Paducah Riverport Authority both agree that exploring the logistics of intermodal river transportation is essential to the growth of inland marine transportation and the nation’s economy. The anticipated completion of the expansion of the Panama Canal next year is expected to improve the efficiency and economics for shipments to and from the Gulf of Mexico.

A standard jumbo hopper barge can accommodate up to 81 empty or 50 loaded 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), or 36 empty or loaded 40-foot equivalent units (FEUs). A towboat operating on the locking rivers like the Tennessee, Ohio or Illinois, can typically transport 15 barge tows, which equates to up to 1,215 empty or 750 loaded TEUs or 540 empty or loaded FEUs. A towboat operating on the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans can transport up to 54 barge tows, which means up to 4,374 empty or 2,700 loaded TEUs or 1,944 empty or loaded FEUs.  

When the Miss Shirley leaves America’s Central Port, the towboat will return to Paducah where the Riverport Authority will unload the intermodal containers using the 200-ton, Linden-Comansa tower crane, which is the largest in all of North America.

About the author

Ken Hocke

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.

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