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Report: Inland Barge Transportation Best Environmental Choice

MarAd Report Cites Studies & Research Areport issued by the Mari time Administration (MarAd) concludes that inland barge transportation is a safe, efficient, economical and environmentally sound method to transport products, and superior in performance when compared to both rail and truck.

Energy Efficiency According to the report, numerous studies on fuel efficiency, including studies sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, indicate similar results: shallow-draft water transportation is the most fuel efficient mode of transportation for moving bulk raw material, is the least energy intensive method of freight transportation when moving equivalent amounts of cargo, and consumes less energy than alternative modes. Specifically, the report quotes two comprehensive studies done by the U.S. Congres- sional Budget Office (CBO) and S.E. Eastman. The major finding of the CBO study was that inland barges were most efficient in terms of operating energy, line-haul energy and modal energy (see Figure 1 for details). The Eastman study found "barge transportation to be the most fuel efficient method of moving the raw materials and semi-finished products..." The study showed a range of 270 BTUs and 350 BTUs per ton/mile, versus a range of 650 BTUs to 750 BTUs per ton/mile for rail. Another study performed by the RAND Corp. and detailed in the MarAd report determined that, on average, water carriers consume 500 BTUs of energy per ton/mile, the lowest of any mode studied. The next lowest, rail transportation, consumed 750 BTUs per ton/mile, and trucks consumed 2,400 BTUs per ton/mile. In real terms — fuel burned — these numbers indicated that water carriers burn about 3.6 gallons of fuel per 1,000 ton/miles of cargo moved. Other studies by independent carriers have shown consumption rates reportedly as low as 2.92 and 2.99 gallons on the same basis.

Safety Transporting freight of any kind, to any destination, in today's environmental climate means accepting the responsibility to transport it safely. Several studies have shown that water transport has the fewest number of incidents, fatalities and injuries of any surface mode, according to the MarAd report.

In fact, an independent modal safety study prepared for MarAd on transporting bulk hazardous substances found that barge spills occur much less often t h an spills from either tank trucks or tank cars. While there is no singular reason for this, many factors contribute, such as the fewer number of modal units required to transport tonnage, and design features such as double hulls, bolted flanges and automatic shutdowns.

Of course OPA '90 and its ramifications will have a big role in the design and operation of inland tank barges.

The legislation requires the phase-out of single-hull tank vessels carrying oil in bulk and prohibits operation of tank vessels less than 5,000-gt by January 1, 2015. The industry, aware of the need to protect the environment, has nevertheless been moving in this direction.

Over the last 10 years (1984 to 1993), of the 271 inland tank barges built, only one was of single hull construction according to a study cited in the report.

Pollution A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study cited in the report determined that com mercial marine navigation has a relatively minor effect on air pollution.

The study analyzed navigation emissions in the St. Louis region, a big hub for barge activity, showing t h a t waterway transportation is more "environmentally friendly^ in terms of emissions as compared to other transportation modes (see Figure 2 on page 68).

In a study by the Environmental P r o t e c t i o n Agency, comparing modes of transportation and the emissions each produces moving a ton of cargo 1,000 miles, it was again concluded that waterway transportation was the most favorable (see Figure 3 below).

 
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