MarAd Announces Marine Highway Grants

The U.S. Maritime Administration announced the award of nine America’s Marine Highway grants December 10, including three projects that impact the inland waterways system.

The grants total $12.6 million. The funding will help address supply chain disruptions, enhance the movement of goods along the nation’s navigable waterways and expand existing waterborne freight services in Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, MarAd said.

  “These investments through the America’s Marine Highway Program will help us move more goods, more quickly and more efficiently,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said. “In this moment of record demand for goods and shipping, this is an important piece of the Administration’s Port Action Plan to strengthen supply chains, modernize port operations, and lower the cost of goods for American families.”

Since its inception, the program has designated 52 marine highway projects. Since 2016, MarAd has received $44.6 million in funding for grants under the program. Twenty-four eligible marine highway projects have received grant funding.

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“America’s Marine Highway Program is an innovative program that encourages the use of America’s navigable waterways for the movement of freight and people as an alternative to land-based transportation,” acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley said. “The funding announced today advances our ongoing efforts to help new marine highway services begin operation and to improve existing services.”

Kentucky And Indiana

MarAd awarded $1,408,000 for a project at Nucor Steel Gallatin in Ghent, Ky. The grant funds will support the purchase of a Buy American-compliant bridge crane at the new marine terminal at the plant. The site will transport steel products by inland river barge on the Ohio River to the ports of Cincinnati, northern Kentucky and beyond. The  new crane will be designed to lift 70 tons to meet market demand.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Regional Governments (OKI) is the sponsor for the area’s marine highway project designation. Robyn Bancroft, strategic initiatives manager, noted it the fourth time OKI has applied to the grant fund on behalf of a company seeking to move freight via the river system.

“We’re now four for four,” she said. “I think that’s the most exciting thing. Our projects have been so strong for moving freight on the river that we have been successful.”

Nucor Steel Gallatin saw steel production double between January 2020 and January 2021, creating the need for a second marine terminal, Bancroft said. The grant will fund 80 percent of the cost of a new gantry crane for the new terminal. It is estimated to cost a total of $1.76 million for the purchase and installation, Bancroft said.

Once construction is complete, the existing terminal will be used to bring in scrap and materials for production, while the new one will move finished steel coils, she said.

“Not only do we want them to move stuff by the river as much as possible, but it’s making sense for them,” Bancroft said.

Nucor began construction last year on a new steel plate facility in Brandenburg, Ky., that was the recipient of a marine highway grant last year.

Bancroft said such grants are essential economic development tools that will help move cargoes off crowded highways and onto the underutilized river system.

“It’s really about the safety of moving the freight and the most efficient means,” Bancroft said. “Whereas our highways, our roadways are congested with trucks and commuter traffic, we’ve got our river right there that is able to handle it, and we’ve got partners like Nucor that are right there on the river, and it just makes sense to take advantage of that resource.”
She added that using the river is more cost-efficient for moving freight and also more environmentally friendly.

“It’s a benefit and a win-win all around,” she said.

Louisiana And Tennessee

MarAd awarded $847,500 to support the continued growth of a container shuttle service from Memphis, Tenn., to Port Allen, La.

The grant will fund the purchase of 100 container chassis, support modification to the towboat wheelhouse and enable one bareboat lease of a new, 2,520-hp. Z-drive towboat with Tier 3 engines. It is sponsored by SEACOR AMH.


The Chambers County-Houston Container on Barge Expansion Service will receive $3 million in grant funding. Sponsored by Chambers County Improvement District 1, the grant will support the purchase of two purpose-built barges. Funding will enable the applicant to transport up to 56,000 containers annually to and from the surrounding ports, MarAd said.


• $600,000 to Cape May-Lews Ferry in Delaware and New Jersey for a ferry master plan.

• $200,475 to Hawaii Commercial Harbors System Shipping Services for 99 forklift scales.

• $1,015,000 to North Carolina Container on Barge Shuttle Operation for crawler crane, two spreader bars and a forklift.

• $1,010,800 to Mid-Atlantic Barge Service in New Jersey for two reach stackers for the Balzano Marine Terminal at the Port of Camden, N.J.

• $1,470,000 to New York Harbor Container and Trailer-on-Barge Service for modifications to a deck barge for transporting up to 36 trailers between Brooklyn and Newark with one round-trip per day, 260 days a year.

• $3,048,363 to James River Container Expansion Project for improving lighting at Richmond Marine Terminal to allow barge operations beyond daylight hours.