The Maritime Administration has awarded the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans a $3.2 million Marine Highway Program grant to support an initiative to put shipping containers on barges rather than congested roadways.
The container on barge (COB) service between the Louisiana ports was awarded the largest of three grants last week from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Sponsored by the Port of New Orleans, the funding will allow the ports to purchase vessels designed to increase the viability of the service at a time when Louisiana’s chemical industry continues to grow—increasing demand for inland transportation. The existing container on barge service currently moves approximately 16,800 FEUs (40-foot equivalent units) between Memphis/Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
In February 2016, Seacor AMH—part of Seacor Holdings Inc.’s Inland River Services group—tested the idea of putting empty containers from Seacor’s Memphis facility on barges and transporting them to Baton Rouge, where the containers would be available to chemical companies in the area to fill with plastic resins.
Once the containers were filled, they would be loaded onto barges and taken to New Orleans for export.
The initiative is designed to expand the use of U.S. navigable waterways to relieve roadway congestion and reduce air emissions. MARAD officials predicted that the Seacor service could eventually eliminate 12,500 truck trips annually.