America’s Central Port, located on the Mississippi River, just south of St. Louis at Granite City, Ill., has released some details on how it will invest the $1.26 million awarded it for container-on-barge (COB) operations in the latest round of MARAD Marine Highway grants.
The port is an intermodal hub whose river operations are managed by SEACOR Holdings’ subsidiary SCF at two Mississippi River harbors. The Granite City Harbor is a year-round 24-hour slack water operation.The more recently opened Madison Harbor is just south of Lock 27, providing open river barge navigation straight through to the Gulf of Mexico.
The port is a long-time advocate of COB as a way to capture the full transportation potential of the Mississippi River. With the completion of the Madison Harbor construction in 2016, the port says it has been of the firm belief that COB can happen in the St. Louis area, and that the Madison Harbor is primed for container movement.
The Madison Harbor was constructed to handle bulk movement of grain from unit trains to barge as well as general cargoes, with the movement of containers kept in the forefront of the design of the facility. A dual access road system is one example of how the port designed the facility with the trucking and container industry in mind. Two roads lead to the Madison Harbor general cargo dock: one bypasses a rail crossing, and the other has no overhead height restrictions. This unimpeded, redundant access reduces congestion and emissions, and greatly increases efficiencies of the Madison Harbor operator and truck/chassis drivers.
With the $1.26 million Marine Highway grant, the port and SCF will be able to more efficiently ship and receive containerized goods by barge (COB), providing intermodal access to the Gulf of Mexico and cities like Chicago, New Orleans, and Memphis.
As a condition of the grant, the port and SCF will put up a 20.7% match of $331,200
The specific components of the project include:
- Purchase of a 275-ton crane to handle the loading of containers onto barges, as well as other commodities
- Installation of up to 18 new fixed and pan/tilt/zoom cameras at the Madison Harbor to aid in the securing of containers and notification of trucks
- Purchase of a container tilter for use in loading bulk commodities into containers.
Plans are also in development regarding the laydown area for containers. While the Marine Highway grant will be used for handling equipment, on a separate project (independent of this grant application), SCF is improving the marshaling yard area in order to more efficiently handle containers as volumes grow.
Given time needed to purchase the new equipment and installation, container-on-barge transportation at America’s Central Port is projected to be operational later this year in 2020.