The Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville provides barge, rail and truck access along the Ohio River. (courtesy of the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville)
Ports & Terminals

Ports Offer Options On Both Sides Of Ohio River

Sometimes called Kentuckiana because of the region’s close relationship between Kentucky and Indiana, the greater Louisville, Ky., metropolitan area has inland riverports on both the sides of the Ohio River that serve the region.

The Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, headquartered in Jeffersonville, Ind., is involved in a $23 million expansion to better serve its customers. Plans call for a bulk rail-to-barge loading facility with a loop railroad track and the building of a new intermodal facility with a 4-acre storage yard.

Over on the Kentucky side, the Louisville Riverport operates under the jurisdiction of the Louisville Riverport Authority. Its offerings include a multi-purpose terminal served directly by three major Eastern railroads: CSX, Norfolk Southern and the Paducah & Louisville Railroad.

Both ports carry Foreign Trade Zone designations, allowing companies to compete globally with savings on certain import duties. They also both tout their location, near major interstates, along the M-70 Marine Highway corridor and within 150 miles of nearly a dozen automotive plants.

Port Of Indiana-Jeffersonville

A $10 million TIGER grant, awarded in 2015, allowed the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville to begin planning its infrastructure expansion. As part of the highly competitive application process, the port demonstrated the impacts of a valuable project and its ability to match the funding. In total, the port and private investors have contributed an additional $13 million to allow the scope of the project to expand in the intervening years.

—courtesy of the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville A map shows plans for the three-phase, $23 million infrastructure expansion expected to be completed at Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville by fall 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville)
—courtesy of the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville
A map shows plans for the three-phase, $23 million infrastructure expansion expected to be completed at Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville by fall 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville)

The three-phase, $23 million project is now slated for completion in fall 2021.

Phase A includes a bulk loading facility with direct rail or truck transfer, improving efficiency, especially for grain or other agriculture-related exports.

“It can go directly from either a railcar or a truck into a barge,” Miles said, adding that the facility will significantly improve the port’s capabilities for handling multimodal shipments in both speed and volume, creating savings for customers. The phase also includes a loop rail track system that will accommodate longer trains more efficiently without requiring them to be broken into smaller blocks of cars.

Phase B includes 5,500 feet of new rail track to tie into the existing water-side rail infrastructure that is part of Phase A. That’s long enough to hold a normal, unit-sized train of between 90 and 120 cars, making it more efficient and less costly for customers, Miles said.

Phase C involves the building of a new intermodal facility with a paved, 4-acre surface.

In addition to the TIGER projects, a heavy-haul road is under construction that will provide a second port entrance with direct access to I-265. The Lewis and Clark Bridge connects I-265 on both sides of the Ohio River, completing the much anticipated bi-state connection to three major interstates: I-64, I-65 and I-71. The opening of a new $1 billion Ohio River bridge in 2016 also creates a new interstate shortcut from the port to key markets in Louisville, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Nashville, Tenn.

Miles said there is plenty of room for more businesses, with 340 acres of developable land remaining, including three large parcels, the biggest of which spans 140 acres. The 1,057-acre port has 11 miles of rail with direct connection with CSX and, via the Louisville & Indiana Railroad, the Norfolk Southern Railroad, in addition to on-site switching by MG Rail. It also offers 3,200 feet of riverfront. The port’s maritime industrial park features customized on-site warehousing, distribution and manufacturing facilities in close proximity to the Ohio River.

“We’re really focused on trying to attract the steel and plastics manufacturing and processing that feeds into the automotive and other durable-goods industries,” Miles said.

The port currently is home to 27 tenants, including Consolidated Grain & Barge Company and Consolidated Terminals & Logistics, both subsidiaries of CGB Enterprises Inc.; Metals USA Inc.; TANCO Inc; VOSS Clark; the Idemitsu Kosan Company Ltd.; Steel Dynamics Inc.; POSCO; Revere Plastics Systems; LEGACY Supply Chain Services; Delaco Kasle Processing; and WATCO Companies LLC. Fifteen tenants are steel-related businesses, including those that process, roll form and galvanize steel, while others draw from the agriculture or transportation sectors. Major cargoes include corn, fertilizer, salt, wire rod, soybeans, steel, liquid asphalt, pig iron and heavy lift cargo.

More than 1,000 barges, 250,000 trucks and 16,000 railcars pass through the Port of Indiana- Jeffersonville annually. The port has space for 2.5 million bushels of grain storage as well as a 350-car near-dock rail yard. In 2018 and again in 2019, more than 2.4 million tons of cargo passed through the port, up from nearly 2.2 million tons in 2017.

The community of Jeffersonville also has a long history in the maritime industry. The first shipyard opened in the city in 1834, next to the Falls of the Ohio because of the deep harbor created by the only natural barrier in the Ohio River.

Brian O’Brien, terminal manager with WATCO Companies LLC at the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, said the port has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to ease of transport for its steel coils.

“We have several customers within a 100-mile radius to the port, easy access to the highways and not to overlook the fact that we needed a riverside location,” he said.

He also noted the predominantly calmer waters and seldom having river levels so high that they impede the company’s operation.

Transporting product within the port has also been a fluid and easy process with local drivers available, O’Brien said. He said he appreciates that among those businesses operating and storing products at the port, materials can be allocated in relatively short notice. Also, he said, there is a substantial amount of inside storage available as well as storage on improved outside pads. When completed, the heavy-haul road will also have benefits for WATCO, making an easier trip to the interstate for drivers.

Chris Winger is Jeffersonville plant manager for Steel Dynamics, located at the port since 2003.

“I think the location is pretty central,” he said. “We can go in all sorts of directions with our finished product: north, south, east, west, and our reach is pretty extensive as far as where we can ship our finished product.”

For Steel Dynamics, one advantage has been the company’s location along its own rail spur. Several freight companies are also ready and willing to service the areas, he said, and multiple interstates are nearby.

“One of the benefits of the Port of Indiana is the facilities are well kept and roads in really good shape,” Winger said. “There is plenty of space, plenty of room for trucks to travel on the roads and pull off when they need to. It’s not jam-packed.  Traffic is not an issue.”

Louisville Riverport

Over on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, the Louisville Riverport has its own advantages.

The Louisville Riverport Authority owns and oversees the 300-acre Louisville Riverport at Ohio River Mile 618, 16 miles downstream of the Louisville riverfront. (Photo courtesy of Louisville Riverport Authority)
The Louisville Riverport Authority owns and oversees the 300-acre Louisville Riverport at Ohio River Mile 618, 16 miles downstream of the Louisville riverfront. (Photo courtesy of Louisville Riverport Authority)

Matt Yates is vice president of the Louisville Riverport Authority, which owns and oversees the 300-acre port at Mile 618, sixteen miles downstream of the Louisville riverfront.

“We’re right between two interstates in Louisville, so you’ve got great accessibility,” he said. “Furthermore, we’re connected to a 3,000-acre industrial park that has port customers there and has space available for companies to co-locate in either in the park or in the port facility itself.”

Because of its location both downstream of the McAlpine Locks and Dam and south of toll bridges, Yates said the Louisville Riverport is also well-positioned for companies with products heading south from Louisville.

According to the port’s website, the fully integrated port and industrial park constitute one of the most accessible industrial areas in the nation. It is served by three interstate highways, five rail lines, of which three have direct connections, and, of course the Ohio River. Properties are available with both direct rail and marine access, Yate said. The port is one of the few inland industrial and port sites in the nation with single-line haul by three railroads: CSX, Norfolk Southern and Paducah & Louisville Railway. A four-lane highway connecting the riverport to the interstate system is less than a five-minute drive. It is also eight miles from Louisville International Airport at Standiford Field, the area’s major airport.

One benefit obvious to a lot of supply chain professionals, Yates said, is that the region is a hotbed for supply chain innovation. UPS has its world headquarters and international hub in Louisville. The city is also home to multiple, large-scale warehouses and automobile and part manufacturers.

Port offerings include a bulk commodity transfer terminal, barge fleeting area, ground storage and 13 miles of on-site and off-site railroad track as well as a general cargo dock. The bulk commodity terminal transfers dry bulk commodities such as coal, grain, fertilizer and potash from rail hopper cars to barges. It is designed to handle more than 4 million tons of dry bulk commodities a year working at the rate of 2,000 tons an hour, according to the port website. An entire 120-car train can be offloaded in an eight-hour shift. The port also has a 30-ton gantry crane.

Four tenants call the port home: ELG Metals Inc., a subsidiary of ELG Haniel Group; Universal Minerals Inc.; Valicor Environmental Services; and the Port of Louisville, which operates the terminal.

“We have the best workforce in the region,” Yates said. “We have a very active workforce, a multi-generational manufacturing community that we’re located in, and that’s one of the major issues for industries.”

Yates went on further to call it a top-notch, steel-educated and ready workforce.

He also talked about the riverport authority’s familiarity with Kentucky’s economic development incentives and its willingness to serve as a partner that can help businesses that choose to locate at the port, including help with permitting and other issues.

Yates said the port has plans to grow, calling it a new vision. Although specific details have not yet been announced, he said, the port authority board is working with management and the city to improve logistics and stress the port’s multimodal functionality.

Ultimately, both the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville and the Louisville Riverport have much to offer their existing tenants as well as space to welcome new ones and plans to continue to develop well into the future. That means plenty of options for serving businesses on either side of the Ohio.


Caption for top photo: The Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville provides barge, rail and truck access along the Ohio River. (Photo courtesy of the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville)

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