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Mississippi River port operators plan for new container services

A rendering of what a planned inland container vessel would look like on the Mississippi River at St. Louis. American Patriot Holdings image.

Anticipating rising container traffic with the advent of new Mississippi River vessels, port officials in Missouri and southern Louisiana signed agreements recently to share marketing, studies and data.

The arrival of bigger containerships through the expanded Panama Canal to the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast has port planners looking at how they might become new import portals to the Midwest states where most containers now are shipped in by rail from California.

In February the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District signed a memorandum of agreement with the Jefferson County Port Authority located near St. Louis, as part of the Louisiana port’s ongoing effort to build relationships with ports on the upper river.

A similar agreement was formally inked March 27 in St. Louis with five other regional transport and port agencies. The memorandum sets a five-year term for cooperating on new river services with interconnections by barge, truck and rail.

Meanwhile, American Patriot Holdings LLC, Miami, says it is moving ahead with final engineering for its planned 595’x134’ river liner design, having completed scale model testing in Germany in September 2017.

The self-propelled container vessel will have a capacity of 2,500 TEUs, compared to 300 TEUs on current Mississippi container-on-barge (COB) services. With liquefied natural gas-fueled diesel electric propulsion and fore and aft thrusters, it will have an upriver speed of 13 knots with low wake.

That will make round trips possible from the Lower Mississippi to Memphis, Tenn., in seven days and to St. Louis in 11 days.

“The Plaquemines to St. Louis route will be a bedrock service APH intends to implement throughout the Mississippi River Basin,” said Sal Latrico, APH president and CEO.