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Global Supply Chain News: Port of Charleston Developing Plan to Use Barges to Move Containers from Terminals to Rail Yard

 

Move to Reduce Congestion, Address Reality of Aging Driving Pool

Aug. 1, 2017
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Citing road congestion and an aging population among drayage drivers, the port of Charleston, SC, is developing plans for barges to take on much of the load in moving containers from terminals to a upcoming new rail yard.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

If the barge program ever gets off the ground, it will address congestion along Interstates 26 and 526 coming out of the port as well as the trucking industry's on-going issues around a rapidly aging workforce.


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As reported recently by the Charleston Post and Courier, the South Carolina state port authority has applied to the federal Department of Transportation for a marine highway designation that would let barges haul hundreds of cargo boxes at a time along the Wando and Cooper rivers.

An answer is expected before the end of 2017. The official designation is critical because would open the project up for receiving federal grants that could help pay for developing the long-range proposal.

While still in basically a "white board" status, "We know it's physically doable," Jim Newsome, the state port authority CEO, told the newspaper.

Under the proposal, cargo would be taken off ships and moved to the port terminal's container yard, from which they would be placed on barges and hauled to a site near an intermodal rail yard being built by Palmetto Railways. Trains would then transport the container freight out of the port area. Export cargo would follow the reverse route. Each barge would carry between 500 and 1,000 containers.

Moving cargo by river would eliminate the need for many of the trucks that would otherwise have to take containers on over-the-road trips between the Mount Pleasant terminal and the new rail yard.

Palmetto Railways, a division of the state's Commerce Department, plans to open a $130 million rail yard in 2019. It will be used by CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern railroads, which currently move about 25% of all cargo going to and from the Port of Charleston (the rest presumably move totally by truck).

 

Barges Would Move Containers Up River from Port Terminals to New Rail Yard

 

The paper says the plan also lines up well with federal directives that grants be used for projects that support a larger initiative rather than stand-alone ventures, according to Melvin.


"They like to see how projects fit into an entire network," she said, adding the barges would complement other port activities, such as construction of a new container terminal on the former Navy Base and deepening Charleston Harbor.



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"We have a lot of network investment going on," said Barbara Melvin, the port authoriy’s vice president of operations and terminals. "All of it has to fit together for the investment to make sense."

If the barge program ever gets off the ground, it will address congestion along Interstates 26 and 526 coming out of the port as well as the trucking industry's on-going issues around a rapidly aging workforce.

"The average age of a trucker is 54, and nobody's kids want to be in trucking anymore," said Melvin, "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that we can't keep doing what we're doing.


What do you think of this plan for barge drayage transport? Are there other ports where the idea could be used? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

 

Your Comments/Feedback

Mark T. Davis

President, Evamark Logistics
Posted on: Aug, 01 2017

"The average age of a trucker is 54, and nobody's kids want to be in trucking anymore," said Melvin, "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that we can't keep doing what we're doing." Well a sweeping and condescending statement like that isn't helpful either. Positively encouraging a career in a well paying industry might be part of the solution. Obviously, there isn't a "brain surgeon" running Charleston port operations either.

 

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