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Report Touts Containerization For Soy Exports

A November 7 report from the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), prepared by Informa Economics IEG, urges that consideration be given to more containerization of soybeans as a way of serving customers not buying huge bulk amounts.

Titled “Containerized Exports via the Inland Waterway System: An Opportunity for Agriculture?”, the report begins by noting, “In the midst of a dynamic and uncertain global marketplace, it is incumbent upon soybean farmers to explore any innovation that offers the potential for transporting soybeans and other agricultural products in a more reliable, cost-effective, efficient and secure manner.”

The report touts the innovative, patented purpose-built container-carrier vessels currently being developed by American Patriot Holdings. It says these vessels offer “the potential to transport soybeans and other agricultural products via shipping containers along the nation’s inland waterway system to export facilities near the Gulf of Mexico. If realized, this new supply chain will enable farmers and local elevators to more directly access international customers.”

The report compares the cost, speed and quality preservation of this alternative to shipping containers via rail to the West Coast and sending bulk soybeans via traditional barge transportation to Mississippi Gulf export terminals.

The report concludes that the speed of the APH vessel would enable shipments of soybeans and other agricultural products to reach the Mississippi Gulf export terminal six days faster than bulk barge shipments. Given the increased congestion on the West Coast, the APH vessel would be able to depart the export facility at Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District—the port complex along the Lower Mississippi River closest to the Gulf of Mexico—14 days faster than containerized shipments via rail to West Coast facilities. Combining the transit times of the three options both to the export facilities and from the export facilities to a customer in Shanghai, the APH option would enjoy a 14-day advantage over the bulk barge option and would be six days faster than containerized shipping via the West Coast.

APH’s larger “Liner” vessels would be able to transport 2,375 twenty-foot-equivalent containers (TEUs) in a liner service between Plaquemines and both Memphis and St. Louis. Expected roundtrip service between Plaquemines and Memphis is seven days and 10 days between Plaquemines and St. Louis. 

In addition to the liner service to Memphis and St. Louis, APH has designed a smaller, “hybrid” vessel capable of transiting the lock and dam portion of the inland waterway system. These vessels – able to transport approximately 1,700 TEUs—would provide access to regions and communities located along the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio and Arkansas rivers.

“Our research highlights this innovative approach can provide a cost-effective, fast, and secure transportation option to our international customers,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, in a press release.

“As we interact with our international customers, we increasingly hear a desire for being able to source soybeans and agricultural products more directly from more localized elevators and even specific farmers,” said Steenhoek.

“Our customers also routinely express a desire for greater quality preservation and smaller shipping quantities that conform better with the scale of their specific operations. Exploring this new model of containerized shipping via the inland waterway system is a response to this growing customer sentiment. We look forward to utilizing our research to further introduce farmers and agricultural shippers to this innovative opportunity. Ultimately, we hope to see this approach become a reality to the benefit of America’s farmers.”

The full report is available at www.soytransportation.org.

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