Release time: Monday, September 17, 2018
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The expansion of the Panama Canal opened the door to an all-water route into the Midwest. The widened canal can accommodate larger vessels (from 5,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) to 18,000 TEU) whereas, previously, 60 percent of ocean going vessels could not fit through the canal.With the additional travel time to the Gulf Coast offset by congestion-related delays and longer dwell times at the West Coast ports, shippers now have a viable and efficient alternate route.

Plans to transport freight via innovative waterway vessels will revolutionize the inland waterway system and provide significant transportation cost savings for shippers, especially those accessing the Midwest by utilizing the Mississippi River and its tributaries, according to Sal Litrico, CEO for American Patriot Container Transport.

Litrico presented information about Container on Vessel (COV) innovations at two St. Louis Regional Freightway Industry Forums in late August in St. Louis, Missouri, sponsored by America’s Central Port, the Jefferson County Port Authority, Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal District, and Riverview Commerce Park, LLC.

 That new all-water route for bigger vessels to access the heartland of America via the planned Plaquemines Port container terminal provides economies of scale which permits deeper market penetration into the United States from the Gulf Coast, eroding cost advantages previously associated with the East and West Coasts.

“Cargo flows to the lowest cost, most efficient route, so all we had to do was build the lowest cost, most efficient route,” said Sandy Sanders, Executive Director of the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District (PPHTD).

Sanders and Litrico said the goal is to develop a hub-and-spoke transportation system for container transport vessel shipments from Plaquemines, at mile 50-55 on the Mississippi River south of New Orleans, to Midwest markets, which represent 40 percent of U.S. land area and 15 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product or GDP.

They view this COV approach as a way to move a critical mass of containerized product significantly faster than Container on Barge (COB), resulting in lower landed transportation costs. This insight indicates just how significant the cost savings could be for this new waterway transportation alternative that also would deliver many other benefits, including improved reliability, enhanced operational safety and reduced environmental impact.
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