Greenup Lock pinches waterways shippers
The Jan. 27 failure of the miter gate at the main lock chamber at Greenup Locks and Dam on the Ohio River near Huntington, W. Va., signals millions of dollars lost to U.S. shippers due to inland waterways system delays.
The incident at Greenup closed the Ohio River to barge traffic for several days. While the auxiliary lock is back in operation, the main chamber will remain closed for at least eight weeks, according the Waterways Council.
'The failure of the miter gate arm and the decision to curtail lockages through the auxiliary chamber at Greenup may cause serious delays for the shippers who rely on an efficient inland waterways system to transport America's critical cargoes such as coal, grain, soybeans, petroleum products and aggregate materials,' said Cornel Martin, the council's president and chief executive officer, in a statement on Wednesday.
The estimated value of the losses to operators from this closure of both chambers was about $2 million a week.
The Army Corps of Engineers noted that this latest incident is one of seven major closures at Greenup during the past 13 years, totaling more than $26 million in transportation delay costs. As a result of an eight-week main chamber closure in 2003, transportation delay costs were $13.2 million, and ripple effects from the closure totaled $30 million.
'Currently, 25 percent of locks and dams on the Ohio River have exceeded their design life. Within 10 years, that number will double,' Martin warned.
The Greenup closure comes on the heels of a Sept. 27, 2009 failure of the miter gate at Markland Locks and Dam on the Ohio River near Cincinnati that required the main 1,200-foot lock chamber to close, leaving only the 600-foot auxiliary chamber to accommodate traffic until the repair is completed. The 1,200-foot chamber is still closed four months later impeding traffic, the council noted.
Martin said the council 'urges attention to the critical problem of aging waterways' infrastructure, and higher funding levels for operations and maintenance because the current 'fix-as-fail' approach to maintaining the nation's locks and dam structures has serious flaws, is hurting our economy and threatening jobs, as witnessed at Greenup and at Markland.'
For more details about the condition of the U.S. inland waterways system, read the October 2009 American Shipper, pages 40-43.
The Waterways Council is a national public policy organization advocating a modern and well-maintained national system of ports and inland waterways. The Washington-based group is supported by more than 250 waterways carriers, shippers, port authorities, shipping associations and waterways advocacy groups.