IRPT, Corps Sign Tonnage-Tracking Memorandum

Representatives from Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals (IRPT) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Institute for Water Resources signed a memorandum of common purpose September 12 in New Orleans, La., aimed at more accurately tracking usage of the waterways to better inform waterway management decisions.

Under the agreement, the Corps and IRPT plan to review processes concerning the collection and dissemination of data to make sure cargoes and tonnage moving through inland ports are collected and reported accurately. The Corps budgets funds for dredging based in large part on cargo tonnage. However, smaller inland ports often are at a disadvantage due to two factors. First, they handle high-value, low-tonnage cargoes when compared to deep-draft ports. And second, industry often fails to report tonnage accurately and properly. The result often is inadequate funding for dredging.

The newly signed memorandum establishes a relationship between IRPT and the Corps in which IRPT can ask questions regarding data reporting and the Corps, through the Institute for Water Resources, can point to a particular policy or legislation that deals with data collection. IRPT representatives, armed with that knowledge, could then work to either change that specific policy or improve data collection.

“This is a big step,” said Cindy Cutrera, economic development manager for the Port of Morgan City and president of IRPT. “It means [the Corps] is listening to see what the issues are and what we might perceive as some improvements to the process. They are ready to work on that with us.”

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Cutrera signed the agreement with Dr. Joe Manous Jr., director of the Institute for Water Resources.

Cutrera was fast to point out the memorandum is all about the exchange of information and IRPT gaining insight from the Corps.

“When we have questions or recommendations, they will guide us in the proper direction: ‘This is what you can do to move your cause forward,’” she explained.

Cutrera said another IRPT goal is to develop a new portal to allow users to accurately and anonymously provide data on cargoes moving through ports. She said some users, in the past, have been concerned with the release of confidential information if they reported details about cargoes. The Port of Morgan City, Cutrera said, for example, has partnered with the Institute for Water Resources and the Waterborne Commerce Data Center to hold workshops so operators will know that the Trade Secrets Act bars the Corps releasing their confidential information.

“That has made people in our area a lot more comfortable about reporting, and they are starting to go with Waterborne Commerce to get their information reported,” Cutrera said. “There still are some who don’t, and I think throughout the nation there are some who aren’t, and I just don’t think it’s very beneficial to ports that are trying to get their waterways dredged when people refuse to report.”