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MarAd Awards $9.5 Million In Marine Highway Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced $9.5 million in grants June 15 for America’s Marine Highway Program.

Five of the eight grants are for projects on the inland waterways. The funding supports the enhancement of navigable waterways and expands existing waterborne freight services in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and American Samoa.

“This federal assistance will provide additional options to reduce congestion on the roads and help the surrounding local communities’ and the regions’ economic recovery,” Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said.

The America’s Marine Highway Program promotes the increased use of navigable waterways to ensure landside congestion relief, new and efficient transportation options and increased performance of the surface transportation system, MarAd said.  The program works with public and private stakeholders to achieve these goals.

Of the eight grants awarded, seven are in federal Opportunity Zones, created to revitalize low-income and economically distressed communities using private investment.  Low-income communities are nominated by U.S. states, possessions and the District of Columbia and then certified by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury as Opportunity Zones.

“The continued expansion and modernization of the U.S. marine transportation system benefits the maritime industry,” Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby said. “U.S. waterway freight systems offer a safe and efficient option for shippers and reduce road traffic and emissions while providing jobs, commerce and crucial resources to dozens of communities across multiple states.”

Since 2016, MarAd has provided $33.8 million in grants for the America’s Marine Highway Program. Eighteen eligible marine highway projects have received funding assistance to further improve the transportation system and national security by adding to the nation’s strategic sealift resources and providing transportation alternatives during times of disaster or national emergency.

Port Of Morrow Barge Service Expansion

A $3.2 million grant to Tidewater Barge Lines will support the expansion of barge services from the Port of Morrow on the Columbia River in Boardman, Ore., to Vancouver, Wash. The expansion will include the procurement of a new barge capable of handling a combination of containers that will help alleviate traffic congestion by diverting freight to the underutilized M-84 corridor, MarAd said.

The Port of Morrow, Ore., was the grant sponsor.

“This Marine Highway grant award allows us to acquire a new barge specially designed for expanding container service from our facilities in Vancouver to the Port of Morrow,” said Todd Busch, president and CEO of Tidewater Barge Lines. “By utilizing the Columbia River’s underused Marine Highway 84, this expansion in service will provide benefits throughout the Pacific Northwest by mitigating highway congestion, reducing air emissions and increasing economic activity. This award is the result of a productive relationship with port and other public stakeholders and strong support from our congressional delegation.”

Busch also thanked Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley for their work both to achieve the grant and the original MarAd project designation.

“This grant will directly support increased barge service through the Port of Morrow, helping grow the economy and create family wage jobs here in eastern Oregon,” said Ryan Neal, executive director of the Port of Morrow. “As the project sponsor, the port was proud to support this grant request, which hinged on the strong public-private partnership between our community and Tidewater Barge Lines. I would like to thank Sen. Wyden and Sen. Merkley for their help securing this grant, and continued support of our efforts to expand barge service along the Columbia River.”

Nucor Steel Brandenburg Marine Terminal

MarAd awarded $2,363,800 to Nucor Steel Brandenburg to support the construction of a marine terminal consisting of two repurposed casino barges. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) sponsored the grant.

By moving cargo via barge on the Ohio River, the marine terminal is expected to employ  20 people with full-time jobs in material handling and stevedoring as well as related jobs for fleet boat operators and deckhands, MarAd said, adding that the grant would also help stimulate the U.S. shipbuilding industry on the inland waterways.

In an executive summary, OKI described the project as building upon successes achieved and lessons learned at the Nucor Steel Gallatin facility in Ghent, Ky., where 430 to 500 truckloads of steel coil per year have successfully shifted from truck to barge using the M-70 marine highway.

“With Nucor Steel Brandenburg, Nucor Corporation is building a new, state-of-the-art steel plate mill in Brandenburg, Ky.,” OKI said. “Nucor chose the Brandenburg site in part due to its location along the Ohio River. Ensuring that the plant is capable of being water-served represents a considerable logistical advantage for the Nucor Steel Brandenburg mill. These advantages extend to both the plant’s raw material supply chain and shipment of the plant’s finished steel plate products to customers. The plate mill will employ more than 400 full-time teammates at an average annual salary of $72,000 once fully operational in 2022.”

The grant will help offset a portion of the significant investment needed to construct the greenfield marine terminal at Brandenburg capable of receiving raw materials and shipping outbound steel products by barge. Nucor’s total expected investment in the terminal is expected to be $15,815,300, according to OKI.

Nucor plans to invest $1.7 billion to build the mill, which will be capable of producing 1.2 million tons per year of steel plate products, OKI said. Approximately 240,000 tons of finished steel plates annually will be shipped by inland river barge to Nucor customers. An estimated 48,000 tons annually of finished steel products will be shipped to the ports of Cincinnati, Louisville, Paducah and Indiana-Clark Maritime Center, where the plates will be transferred to trucks and/or rail for delivery to final destinations.

The balance of 192,000 tons annually of finished steel plate products is expected to be shipped to Chicago, Ill., Pittsburgh, Pa., and various customers in Tennessee and Arkansas. The first leg of transports for these shipments will use the M-70 Marine Highway, OKI said.

The grant covers the cost of 80 percent of the project. Nucor is responsible for the remaining 20 percent of the project cost.

America’s Central Port District Container Handling And Security

MarAd awarded a $1,268,800 grant to support the purchase of a 275-ton crane, a container tilter and the purchase and installation of 18 cameras at America’s Central Port in Granite City, Ill. (See WJ, June 15.)

The project will help bring efficient container-on-barge movement to the St. Louis area on the M-55 and help in revitalizing the area, which has a strong heritage of river transportation, MarAd said.

“With the $1.26 million awarded from this Marine Highway grant, America’s Central Port in conjunction with their operator, SCF Lewis and Clark Terminals, will be able to more efficiently ship and receive containerized goods by barge, providing inter-modal access to the Gulf of Mexico and cities like Chicago, New Orleans and Memphis,” the port said in a news release.

As a requirement for the grant, a 20.7 percent match of $331,200 will be shared between SCF and America’s Central Port.

Plans are also in development regarding the laydown area for containers, according to the port. While the Marine Highway grant will be used for handling equipment, container on barge transportation at the port is projected to be operational later this year.

SEACOR AMH Dunnage Fabrication And Installation

A $778,350 grant to SEACOR AMH will provide permanent dunnage fabrication and installation in 29 of its existing pool of barges, MarAd said.

The permanent dunnage fabrication is designed to increase utilization of the barges and will support the continued growth of the Memphis, Tenn., to Port Allen, La., container shuttle service, allowing movement of 10 percent more containers per barge. The project was sponsored by the Port of New Orleans.

“One of the essential pieces of our business is to put dunnage in barges to keep the containers up from the bottom,” said Rich Teubner, vice president of SEACOR AMH.

The company had been using 12-inch square wooden crane pads between the barge and containers.

“They degrade as time goes by, and we start losing the ability to load as many containers,” Teubner said, as containers can’t be loaded on top of the degraded areas.

“We’re going to put steel donnage plates in instead of wood,” Teubner said, saying they mostly consist of H-beams and I-beams.

Purchasing is likely to begin before the end of the calendar year, he said.

“The consistent support from MarAd of our service and the continual growth of it is a good reflection on MarAd’s AMH program and our service offering,” Teubner said.

Port Of Indiana-Jeffersonville Outdoor Storage Area And Forklift

A $545,136 grant will establish a new storage area and support expansion of existing marine highway service between Nucor Gallatin in Ghent, Ky., and the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville. Components include the construction of an outdoor laydown area and the purchase of a forklift, MarAd said. The project is expected to take more than 2,000 trucks off the highway and to eliminate more than 130,000 miles in one-way truck hauls per year.

In addition to Nucor and the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, project partners include Watco Company, Campbell Transportation Company, Voss Clark, Mill Steel and OKI Regional Council of Governments, which served as the original Marine Highway Project sponsor. The Ports of Indiana are providing the required local funding match and will manage the grant administration.

“This grant funds a critical component of a new barge shuttle service that will allow Nucor to better utilize our Jeffersonville port’s cargo handling facilities to serve customers and to grow future business,” said Ports of Indiana Senior Vice President Jody Peacock. “We’re grateful for MarAd’s support of this project and believe there are more opportunities to expand this barge shuttle to additional ports in the future.”

The grant award will support a project cost of $778,766. It includes two components: the construction of the 1.2-acre outdoor storage area at the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville designed to allow Nucor to increase its use of barge transportation to the port and a forklift to be used to unload truckloads of steel coils from the dock and load trucks for just-in-time delivery to customers, according to the Ports of Indiana.

“We’re excited to partner with Nucor and our family of port companies to develop this project,” Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville Port Director Jeff Miles said. “This port provides critical multimodal connections for steel shipments and steel processors in the Midwest. We have 13 steel-related companies on-site that make our ‘Steel Campus’ a key transportation hub for U.S. steel producers, automakers and manufacturing facilities.”

Other Grants Awarded

A $308,000 grant to the U.S. Coastal Service Inc., will support the launch of a new barge service between Kearny Point, N.J., and Newtown Creek, N.Y.

The grant was sponsored by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. It will fund the planning, permitting and engineering studies required to start operation. MarAd anticipates the service will reduce traffic by eliminating up to 6,000 truck-miles per week.

A $148,664 grant will allow the purchase of low-emission yard tractors to support barge operations in the New York and New Jersey Harbor. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Red Hook Container Terminal LLC sponsored the grant.

The yard tractors are intended to reduce cargo delays, operating costs, highway maintenance costs and diesel emissions, MarAd said.

A $943,000 grant sponsored by the Port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, will be used to purchase a yard floodlighting system, rehabilitate the dock fendering system, resurface the container yard and procure forklifts. The funding is designed to increase the port’s ability to be more flexible with its operations area, resulting in an increase in overall productivity.

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