Barging Business Flourishing Along Ohio River in Monroe County

Wheeling Intelligencer
14 November 2016
Casey Junkins, Business/Energy Writer

HANNIBAL — Progress continues at the former Ormet aluminum smelter, as the Center Port Terminal is now home to McKees Rocks Harbor Services, a company engaged in the barging business with officials eager to take advantage of the site’s location in the heart of the Marcellus and Utica shale field.

The barging business operates in conjunction with its affiliate, McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises. Just last year, the company invested $1.3 million into the addition of a second barge dock at its McKees Rocks, Pa. facility.

“Many customers understand the logistical advantage of having both barge and rail at their fingertips, provided through one company,” McKees Rocks CEO Jim Lind said. “When demand is high, the option of a second supply chain mode becomes critical.”

The Center Port Terminal offers the barge business a second fleeting location 119 miles south of its headquarters on the Ohio River. The former Ormet site also provides additional services such as barge cleaning, repairs and cover stacking at the facility along Ohio 7 in Monroe County.

“I think we made a great decision to engage McKees Rocks Harbor Services to manage our harbor,” Eric J. Spirtas, the terminal’s owner, said. “They understand the region and the increasing demand and our tenants’ harbor needs for water-based transloading services. Center Port Terminal is the region’s multi-modal leader with a port capacity of 3.6 million tons annually.”

Spirtas bought the Ormet property out of bankruptcy for $25.25 million in 2014. Ormet ultimately closed in 2013 after a long dispute with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio concerning electricity rates, permanently displacing several hundred employees.

Since then, state and local officials have worked to bring some type of comparable industry back to the site along Ohio 7. The property, estimated at 1,300 acres, is listed on the Appalachian Partnership For Economic Growth website. This is an economic development agency affiliated with JobsOhio, which is the private corporation created by Gov. John Kasich in 2011.

According to Spirtas, the terminal features 52 barge slips, 12 miles of rail and 1,700 acres of site-ready infrastructure.

“Over 700,000 square feet of existing buildings have been put back into service and we are moving tenants in regularly,” Port Manager Dan Gerovac added. “McKees Rocks Harbor Services is a very professional group, that came to Hannibal’s Center Port Terminal with state-of-the-art equipment and crews ready to work.”