New agreement could make Cairo, Ill., an inland waterways container hub

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Planned next generation river container vessels have patented exo skeleton hull structure

An agreement announced today could position Cairo, Ill., as a national logistics and distribution hub for the intermodal container shipping industry. The agreement between the Alexander Cairo Port District, Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal District and American Patriot Container Transport would make the proposed Cairo river port terminal a key logistics terminal for next generation inland waterways container vessels.

The Alexander Cairo Port, being developed in Illinois at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, and the Plaquemines Port, located at Mile 50-55 on the Mississippi River, have both agreed to provide intermodal container-handling services for American Patriot Container Transport’s vessels.

The innovative and patented design for the river container vessels, developed by Naviform Consulting and Research Ltd. of Canada, is owned by American Patriot Holdings LLC (APH). They would be operated by American Patriot Container Transport LLC. The design includes two U.S. patents, with additional patents pending in Europe and Asia. The first patent includes the exoskeleton hull structure, which significantly reduces the lightship weight allowing for maximum container payload. The second patent includes the minimal wake bow structure which allows the vessel to transit upriver, against a 5 mph current, at speeds of 13 mph with essentially no wake. APH has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Naviform for use and sub-licensing of these patents, which should have worldwide appeal.

The larger “Liner” vessel, planned for Mississippi River service, could range from 595 feet to 625 feet in overall length, with a beam of 134 feet and TEU capacity of 2,375. The “hybrid” vessel, planned for Mississippi tributary rivers, will be 595 feet in overall length and 100 feet in beam with a TEU capacity of 1,700.

Plaquemines Port announced on August 13 that is developing a state-of-the-art container terminal capable of handling 22,000-TEU class container vessels moving goods to and from international markets via the Gulf of Mexico. The Cairo port would serve as a vital link between the Midwest, the new Plaquemines terminal, and global markets.

On August 4t, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the state of Illinois would invest $40 million in the development and construction of the Cairo port through the Rebuild Illinois capital plan. The state’s investment will allow the Cairo project to take advantage of the container shipping opportunities created by the agreement.

“The Mississippi River is the key to unlocking the Midwest’s supply chain advantages, and the new port in Cairo will provide a direct link to the global maritime trade sector that is set to double in the next 10 years,” said Sandy Sanders, executive director of the Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal District. “We’re look forward to working with Cairo to help drive economic growth all along the Mississippi River,” he said.

“The Alexander Cairo Port will provide a resource that American industry needs to reach national and global markets, while creating economic growth and good jobs for Southern Illinois in the process,” said Larry Klein, chairman of the Alexander Cairo Port District. “We’re honored to partner with these leaders in the industry and look forward to building a facility that is ready for the future of global shipping.”

“The Cairo port is designed to serve growing, high-value markets in order to create long-term success for all of our partners,” said Todd Ely, lead consultant for the port district and president of Ely Consulting Group. “The agreements we’re announcing today move us toward that goal and will attract a wide range of industries to Cairo.”

The Alexander Cairo Port Authority has spent years developing a new Mississippi River port terminal that would include a state-of-the-art intermodal rail design capable of handling both containers and other valued cargoes, high speed cranes and other terminal capabilities needed to support modern container shipping logistical requirements. The port will also serve as a hub for moving bulk agricultural products and other materials for domestic and global markets. Eighty percent of inland barge traffic in the U.S. passes by Cairo’s strategic location. The new port will be serviced by Class 1 railroads and several major highways and will be protected from flooding by recently reinforced levees.

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