Port Report: Charleston looks to relieve truck traffic with barge service

( Photo: SCPA )

Port plans new wharf for container-on-barge service that has been slow to take off elsewhere; container imports show big December jump.  

Port of Charleston to move boxes to barges

South Carolina’s Charleston region is the latest coastal city looking to tap underutilized waterways for moving freight, and hopefully find more success than earlier projects. the Port of Charleston is looking to add a wharf space to the Wando Welch marine terminal for loading marine containers on barges. The barged containers would be brought to a new intermodal facility being developed in North Charleston from which containers could be hauled to nearby Norfolk Southern and CSX terminals for inland distribution.  

Container-on-barge service is getting renewed attention across the country, particularly as port cities grapple with increasing amounts of truck congestion. The U.S. Department of Transportation first established the Marine Highway program in 2007 as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act. The program identified 18 marine corridors covering 29,000 miles of coastal and inland waterways for barge use in an effort to relieve traffic. By 2010, the Department of Transportation awarded $58 million in grants to early-stage barge projects, including one aimed at developing a regular container-on-barge service linking the Port of Oakland with inland California ports. But that service fizzled out due to a lack of demand from shippers who were concerned about its reliability over trucking. Still, the DOT persists in pushing container-on-barge services with more grants awarded last year to develop the Marine Highway system.  

Shutdown hurts U.S. ship financing

U.S. Coast Guard service members continue to patrol the nations waters and inspect vessels for safety, all without pay. But the U.S. government’s shutdown did cause the furlough of much of the 8,000 civilian employees that provide back-office support, specifically for recording liens and mortgages on U.S.-flagged commercial vessels. “Ship owners and operators, therefore, are unable to purchase and document U.S.-flag commercial vessels, or obtain mortgage loans on documented vessels,” FreightWaves John Gallagher reports. The impact could particularly hit the development of offshore wind projects, which requires the use of U.S.-flag and crewed offshore vessels for construction and supply.

U.S. crude export terminal faces slowdown 

Midstream energy company cannot get application through during shutdown. (Maritime Professional)

Malaysian refinery readies for 2020 fuel compliance

New refinery to supply low-sulfur marine fuel to at major shipping hub. (Lloyd’s List)

Middle East to start seeing biggest containerships

Ocean Alliance will introduce 20,000-teu ships for first time on route. (Splash 247)

Fire-struck Hapag-Lloyd ship getting relief

Two other container ships enroute to offload cargo from Yantian Express. (Maritime Bulletin)

U.S. ports had a merry, but hectic, Christmas

It may not come as much of a surprise to truck drivers seeing the congestion at major U.S. ports, but container volumes surged last month. This was particularly true in December, which was the putative deadline before tariffs on Chinese goods were expected to rise. Blue Alpha Capital tallied the volumes and found a 3.5 percent increase in December, which was an acceleration from the 2.3 percent rise seen in November. Blue Alpha’s John McCown attributed the rise to “front loading to beat anticipated tariff increases.” East Coast ports have seen better overall growth over the past 12 months thanks to the widening of the Panama Canal. But the pre-tariff rush pushed shippers to opt for West Coast discharge thanks to shorter transit times. West Coast ports saw 15 percent growth in container volumes versus 11 percent growth at East Coast and Gulf ports. With the next deadline for tariff talks coming in March, McCown says “we can expect to see further front loading of shipments in the ensuing months.”


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Michael Angell, Bulk and Intermodal Editor

Michael Angell covers maritime, intermodal and related topics for FreightWaves. His interest in transportation stretches back several generations. One great-grandfather was a dray horseman along the New York waterfront and another was a railway engineer in Texas. More recently, Michael has written about the shipping industry for TradeWinds, energy markets for Oil Price Information Service, and general business topics for FactSet Mergerstat and Investor's Business Daily. When he is not stuck in the office, he enjoys tours of ports, terminals, and railyards.