The Waterways Journal
4 November 2013

In response to Jeff Kindl’s letter to the editor, “Container-On-Barge,” October 14:

“There have been numerous plans on paper of moving containers by barge…” Mr. Kindl is right about that. The Mod 1 Hull is one of those barge concepts, learning from those other  trials, that could be turned into a reality. The brown/blue water design makes it eminently feasible to transport containers on the Mississippi River and many other inland waterways. It can take on containers in nine feet of shallow water and run, loading containers all the way on the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean to Kingston, Jamaica without swamping—thus the design description “brown/blue water” hull. Contrary to the other container short runs Mr. Kindl mentions, the longer the container revenue miles, the more economical the Mod 1 Hull becomes.

And, the Mod 1 Hull wouldn’t cost anywhere near the $300 million plus $90 million per year it will take for continuously dredging the Mississippi. In fact, the Mod 1 Hull could pick up and drop off containers from the ultra large Panamax ships at Kingston and deposit containers right at the New Orleans port and then, without transshipment, as Mr. Kindl referenced for other barges, move additional containers to Joliet, Ill. (Chicago).

Mr. Kindl’s letter stated “It is not the Port of New Orleans’ job to develop upriver container-on-barge water commerce any more than it should be developing upriver fertilizer, steel and salt barging services.” The private business sector might ask then why is it the business of the Port of New Orleans to dredge the Mississippi River when foreign-flag vessels are the major benefactors and, if dredging is so valuable to everyone, why aren’t container  vessel owners lining up to help finance it?

I believe New Orleans certainly does have a responsibility to develop upriver container-on-barge waterborne commerce, if only to grow its own port traffic and add value to the waterways. New Orleans, contrary to Mr. Kindl’s description, serves a huge U.S. market encompassing ports all the way up to Chicago, many of which are already serviced by New Orleans Public Belt Rail.  And, it cannot proceed as though it were not part of the network.

A more recent study, a simulation, is underway and needs more support. The Port of New Orleans has been free to add their data and to support that study. This third-party study might enhance their vision of a brown/blue water barge service replacing the Port of New Orleans’ wasteful /unnecessary and expensive dredging.

Paul Pollinger
Washington, D.C.