New COB Service Launched Between Brownsville, Tampa Bay

After a series of weekly cargo sailings since October to fine-tune operations, Work Cat Trans Gulf LLC officially launched its new container-on-barge service in the last week of December between the Port of Brownsville, Texas, and Port Tampa Bay, Fla. The new weekly shipping option connects markets in Florida and the Southeast United States with Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and Mexico’s industrial centers in Monterrey, Saltillo and Matamoros.

“We’re excited to formally launch this new weekly service between the large and rapidly growing Northern Mexico, South Texas and Southeastern U.S. markets,” said Hank Hoffman, CEO at Work Cat. “Work Cat is built around the core pillars of excellence in shipping and logistics, and we’re proud to work with Port Tampa Bay and the Port of Brownsville in carrying out our mission to provide customers with fast, safe and dependable transport from loading dock to customer site.”

According to Steven Tyndal, senior director of marketing and business development at the Port of Brownsville, the route is currently being served by two 100- by 400-foot oceangoing barges formerly used by TrailerBridge to serve the Puerto Rican market. The barges are towed while at sea, then pushed to the dock. Tyndal said Work Cat had spent several years working out the route arrangements with the ports.

The operation already has moved more than 2,000 containers of customer cargoes between Texas and Florida, Work Cat said in a December 23 press release, demonstrating the route’s advantages to customers.

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“With service times and pricing options competitive with typical trucking options, the new service provides significant new capacity and advantages to shippers and customers across a wide array of industries and distribution centers, particularly the more than 300 operations along the I-4 corridor in Florida and Mexico’s industrial centers in Monterrey,” the company said.

LNG Catamaran Container Vessel

Work Cat says the route is laying the groundwork for a new, innovative LNG-powered purpose-built catamaran container vessel. “The name Work Cat stems from its future proprietary ‘Work Cat’ cargo vessel, a modern 400-foot catamaran capable of transporting 300 truckload equivalent shipments.”

Hoffman has more than 25 years of executive management experience in transportation, according to the website. He founded Phoenix Trans Gulf and served as president and chief operating officer of Integrated Freight Corporation, a public truckload carrier. He was also owner and president of Hook Up Inc., the second-largest truck driveaway service in the U.S., and was president of Tri-State Motor Transit, the trucking industry’s largest transporter of munitions and hazardous materials.

Vice President David Smith is also the president of Work Cat Engineering, founded two years ago, which has filed the registrations of the container deck arrangement designs for the catamaran vessel.

Shipping cargoes directly between Tampa and Brownsville involves about 40 percent less distance than trucking around the Gulf of Mexico and requires about one-fourth of the fuel, leading to what the company says are significant environmental savings and emission reductions.

The Port of Brownsville is the only deep-water port on the U.S.-Mexico border and the largest gateway for steel into the emerging Mexican economy. In addition to its role as a major shipbuilding center, the Port of Brownsville is the closest port to Mexico’s industrial complex in Monterrey, supplying the needs of automotive, white goods and industrial manufacturers throughout the region. The port features direct rail access north into the United States and south into Mexico, plus a direct overweight highway corridor into Mexico that allows shippers to load semi-trucks to the higher Mexican weight limits without having to reload and double-handle cargoes at the border.

Stevedoring Operations

Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest port, handling a diverse mix of bulk, break bulk, container and roll-on/roll-off cargoes, as well as a major cruise homeport and a hub for shipbuilding and repair. Tampa-based Port Logistics Refrigerated Services and Brownsville-based Schaefer Stevedoring will handle the receiving, consolidating, cross-docking, loading and sorting activities at each port.

“At Schaefer Stevedoring, we have spent more than four decades focused on helping integrate steel and general cargo logistics through the Gulf Coast,” said Nico Schaefer, vice president of Schaefer Stevedoring. “This new route will allow us to help a wide range of customers get what they need when they need it, as quickly and efficiently as possible.”