It’s nothing new: The inland waterways are in dire need of infrastructure improvements. That message was highlighted at yesterday’s annual meeting of the Waterways Council Inc. held in New Orleans.

“When we have interruptions to service, the 2012 flood, the drought … if there is any kind of interruptions in service the world is watching and listening to you,” Ken Ericksen, senior vice president at Informa Economics. “And when they hear there are interruptions, they hear that they can’t get something. And if they can’t get something … they go to the next best place.”

Mike Fewell manages barge logistics for Dow Chemical. He said shippers need a more reliable inland waterways infrastructure and help in dealing with unscheduled delays. “We need some consistent delay metrics at every lock so as a shipper, I can better predict when my product is going to get to a customer.”

Fewell’s and Dow’s suggested actions include increased funding for operation and maintenance, full implementation of WRRDA, and all Inland Waterways Trust Fund and Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues are used for their intended purpose. "Full implementation of WRRDA is critical to start recovering."

He added that the industry needs to get the word out that barge transportation is the most efficient mode — lower emissions, lower cost, good environmental safety record, etc. “As an industry, the barge group needs to do a better job advertising this to the general public,” Fewell said. “I think there’s an opportunity where we can be better known for what we do and how well we do it.”

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.