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CN, others to develop plastics resins export facility in Alabama

Plastics pellets export facility is first phase in multicommodity terminal project

A CN train heads to its next destination. (Photo: Flickr/Jim Hamilton)

Canadian railway CN (NYSE: CNI) has partnered with others to develop a high-tech logistics near the Port of Mobile in Alabama for the export of plastics resins or pellets.

CN, Mississippi Export Railroad subsidiary Alabama Export Railroad and Ray-Mont Logistics expect the first phase of the logistics park in Mobile to be open in late 2021. The facility, designed to bag and containerize plastic pellets, will have an annual capacity of 25,000 twenty-foot equivalent units.

“With this new project CN is committed to enabling growth and success for our partners and our customers. CN is once again using the strength of its unique tri-coastal network, and close collaboration with its supply chain partners, to help customers win in their markets,” said James Cairns, CN’s senior vice president for the rail-centric supply chain. 

Other commodities could also be shipped someday through the facility, although there is no set timeline for that to occur, CN spokesperson Mathieu Gaudreault told FreightWaves.

CN and other stakeholders say the facility, which is near the Port of Mobile, will provide customers with export capacity to access Asian, Latin American and European markets without having to take on additional costs for warehousing or double handling. 

“We believe this project represents the first step toward the establishment of a multicommodity logistics hub, which will serve producers and global markets for decades to come,” said Alabama Export Railroad President and CEO Kate C. Luce. “Our interest in pursuing this intermodal opportunity is due in part to the continued federal and state investments at the Port of Mobile, as well as the recent announcement of additional container capacity at APM Terminals.”

For its part, the Port of Mobile has several multimillion-dollar, capacity-expanding projects underway or under consideration. The Alabama Port Authority completed a 400-foot container dock extension at the APM Terminal Mobile in March, enabling the terminal to simultaneously handle two container ships. The extension was part of a wider $50 million plan to increase terminal capacity and productivity.  

The port authority and APM Terminals have invested $450 million in marine and rail container intermodal terminals at the port, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on improving the harbor and channel at Mobile. Meanwhile, MTC Logistics is building a nearly 300,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse facility that is expected to open in early 2021, while automotive lift manufacturer BendPak opened a 100,000-square-foot distribution center 11 miles from the APM Terminals Mobile this year.

In addition to CN, Class I railroads serving the Port of Mobile include BNSF (NYSE: BRK), CSX (NASDAQ: CSX), Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC).

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.