Inland Issues Safety Of Towing Vessels, Environment; And Efficient Intermodal Shipping Top Agendas
waterways/Great Lakes community largely deal with safety on the waterways—whether it be navigational safety issues or the safety of the environment. But efficiency is also a paramount issue, especially since an era of increased trade with neighboring countries may be heralded by the passage of NAFTA.
Inland Waterway Infrastructure Corps of Engineers Projects A hearing of the House Public Works Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on May 4 explored the issues of inland waterway infrastructure, port development, and related issues. Inland Waterways User Board (IWUB) Chairman Berdon Lawrence reportedly urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to devise innovative and inexpensive construction techniques for pending projects, saying that without such innovation, only one project would be authorized in the next decade.
"Maritime System of the Americas" At a recent SNAME Symposium at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., Deputy Maritime Administrator for Inland Waterways and Great Lakes John Graykowski spoke of a MarAd study of a "Maritime System of the Americas" that attempts to identify more efficient means of transporting goods between the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S.'s third largest trading partner, as well as Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern rim of South America. The per se Maritime System of the Americas refers to the Great Lakes, the Mississippi and its navigable tributaries, the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway and its tributaries, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Mr. Graykowski noted that 60 percent of U.S. agricultural goods come from the "heartland" of the U.S., so it has become increasingly important to find efficient methods of transporting heartland goods to these areas.
The Maritime System of the Americas study began in 1992, according to Project Manager Doris Bautch of the Maritime Administration, predating the passage of NAFTA. However: "Now that NAFTA has passed," she said, "we expect that there will be more trade moving by water," noting that she has received a lot more inquiries about the study since NAFTA.
The study has three phases, one of which is complete: it studied small vessels on the waterways and rivers that link the central U.S. to various neighboring countries — with heavy focus on the Mississippi — and discovered a niche market for such ships there. The phase one study also found that vessels or vessel systems which are capable of safe navigation both on inland and ocean waters have sufficient economies to serve small volumes of general cargoes, containers, and minor bulk commodities. According to the study, the advantage of such river/ Crowley tug Bulwark towing a module on route to Alaska, as part of the annual sealift. ocean service is that it only has to capture a relatively small portion of a large and rapidly growing market for general cargo movements to Mexico and South America.
Phases two and three are being conducted concurrently, and Ms. Bautch said she hoped a final report would be completed by the end of the year. Phase two will study short sea shipping, covering vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, with transshipment at coastal ports for trade among Canada, the U.S., Mexico and other neighboring countries. Phase three will examine intermodal connections of deep-draft oceangoing vessels, with considerations for alternatives.
A scrapped possible phase four of the study would have examined the possibility of lengthening the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to connect the "heartland" of the U.S. with Mexico. It was decided, said Ms. Bautch, that the possibility of that extension would not be explored at this time.