The U.S. Maritime Administration recently announced $4.85 million in grants to support five initiatives designed to transport freight on rivers to help relieve congestion on highways and reduce diesel pollution from trucks. The grants will help expand three existing marine highway operations across New York Harbor; operations along the Mississippi River between New Orleans, La. and Memphis, Tenn.; and on the James River between Richmond and the Port of Norfolk in Virginia.
The Maritime Administration awarded the first round of Marine Highway Grants six years ago as part of its effort to stimulate cargo diversion to coastal and inland waterways, especially barge services that haul containers. But the short-sea shipping mode, as some refer to it, has proven problematic to jumpstart without government subsidies because most shippers have been reluctant to sacrifice speedier transit times and the lack of dedicated port infrastructure for seamless transfer of containers from trucks to barges.
The Maritime Administration also issued grants to:
• The Port of Baton Rouge and the Port of New Orleans Container on Barge ($1.76 million), sponsored by the Greater Port of Baton Rouge. The Memphis/Baton Rouge/New Orleans shuttle service is a regularly-scheduled container on barge service that caters to exports moving from the Baton Rouge area to the Port of New Orleans, where the containers are loaded onto vessels. The new service is designed to collect empty containers in Memphis and transport them to Baton Rouge to meet customer demand.
• The Illinois Container on Barge Shuttle Project ($713,000), sponsored by America’s Central Port in Granite City, Ill. The Illinois Container on Barge Shuttle is an 18-month demonstration project to provide shuttle service for agricultural customers moving containerized exports between southern and northern Illinois to access the Union Pacific and BNSF rail ramps. The shuttle service will operate on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers between Channahon and Granite City, Ill., with an option to extend container-on-barge service to the Gulf of Mexico ports in concert with related Marine Highway Designation.
• The New York Harbor and Container and Trailer on Barge Service ($1.6 million), sponsored by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The New York Harbor Container and Trailer on Barge is an existing service that operates in New York Harbor between Red Hook Container Terminal in Brooklyn, N.Y., to the Red Hook Barge Terminal in Newark, N.J.
• The M-55/M-35 Container on Barge Project ($96,000), sponsored by the City of St. Louis Port Authority, along with three partners: Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals, Inc. (IRPT), Mississippi Rivers Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), and Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA). Funding will support planning efforts focused on the development of containerized shipping along the Mississippi River, between New Orleans, Minneapolis and Chicago.
• The M-495 Potomac River Commuter Ferry Project ($173,361), sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
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