The Department of Transportation has designated the container-on-vessel program as an official project, paving the way for significant change in how River commerce is conducted. To mark the occasion, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay received the certificate of designation from Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen last week in St. Louis. Mayor Slay is part of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a mayor-led effort comprised of 68 River Mayors committed to creating a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River, which led the push for the program.
"Our cities suffer from considerable surface transportation congestion which is taking its toll on the infrastructure," said Mayor Slay, a founding MRCTI member. "That's why we must start using our inland waterway system better. DOT's support is a significant step forward for starting a container-on-vessel program on the Mississippi River."
Designation as an official DOT project means that the U.S. Maritime Administration can help coordinate the container-on-vessel shipping under the Administration's MARAD Marine Highway Program. This designation will allow the existing public private partnership to become eligible for Federal grant funds as well as technical assistance. Most importantly, however, the organized process and coordination that comes with MARAD project designation can add the most value by keeping the effort focused, on track, and organized.
Container-on-vessel shipping is a common way to distribute goods in other parts of the world, including Europe and China. This form of shipping involves specially made cargo ships capable of carrying hundreds of truck size containers. Containerization will create significant efficiencies in the transportation of goods and service and relieve freight bottlenecks on the River which cost the American economy $200 billion annually. Currently, the River is mostly used to transport raw goods and materials by barge.
The container-on-vessel effort was initially unveiled by MRCTI in fall 2013 at the Mississippi River Economy Summit held in Memphis. The effort builds from the container shipping line previously run from Memphis to New Orleans and about to be revived by the IL Soybean Association. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chism Hardy Investments, Ingram Barge Company, Inland Rivers, Ports and Terminals were early supporters of this effort, which is expected to relieve freight congestion, create economic opportunity for River ports and other intermodal industries, and attract investment in River infrastructure.
For more information, visit the mrcti.org web site.
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St. Louis Development Corporation