Last week, the Maritime Administration (Marad) announced it had awarded nearly $39 million in grants to 12 marine highway projects under the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP).

For one of the projects, Marad awarded $4.2 million to Tidewater Barge Lines Inc., Vancouver, Wash., to acquire equipment that will expand regional barge service on the Columbia River. 

Combined with nearly $2 million in matching funds from Tidewater, the grant will provide two new low- and zero-emission cranes that will enable the loading of additional solid waste containers on barges for shipment from southwest Washington to eastern Oregon.

“This award will allow Tidewater to barge thousands of additional containers that would otherwise be trucked along the region’s congested highway system,” said Todd Busch, Tidewater president and CEO. “This federal investment will help meet regional transportation demands and reduce emissions by supporting new clean technology to expand our barge service, which is the cleanest, safest, and most fuel-efficient form of transportation.”

Awarded through the America’s Marine Highway Grant Program, federal funding will significantly expand Tidewater’s ability to load, unload, and barge containerized shipments. With partners, including Clark County, the Port of Morrow, and Waste Connections, Tidewater will be able to bolster barge service by an estimated 3,000 annual containers. Diverting these containers to barge will reduce annual truck trips by 1,020,000 miles and cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by an estimated 5,776 annual metric tons.

Marad funding will support the placement of a new electric, zero-emission container dock crane at Tidewater's Vancouver terminal that will load and unload containers 25% faster than the current 54-year-old crane.

The grant will also enable the acquisition of a low-emission crawler crane for the second dock at Tidewater's Boardman, Ore., terminal. Combined with an existing gantry crane, the new crawler crane will effectively double annual throughput capacity, Tidewater said.

The grant will build upon previous awards made by Marad to the Port of Morrow, Ore., and Tidewater in 2019 and 2020 to improve terminal infrastructure and construct a specialty-built barge.