High prices push La. exports to record

Barge and ship traffic are common sites at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. A new service uses the Mississippi River to transport shipping containers between the port's inland terminal and New Orleans, reducing the number trucks needed to transport cargo between the cities.

RICHARD ALAN HANNON

The container-on-barge shuttle service between the Port of Greater Baton Rouge and the Port of New Orleans has been designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a Marine Highway Project, which could allow for federal funds to be used to purchase equipment.

The service, which was launched in late July by SEACOR AMH, uses the Mississippi River to transport shipping containers between the two ports.

Robert Marionneaux, director of governmental affairs for the Baton Rouge port, said the service takes “at least a couple of hundred” 18-wheelers off of Interstate 10 between the two cities.

Dow and Shintech have been using the container on barge service to transport chemicals from their Baton Rouge-area plants to the Port of New Orleans. Empty containers from Memphis arrive in Baton Rouge at the port’s Inland Rivers Marine Terminal, where they get filled with chemicals.

Marionneaux said instead of being able to haul only one or two containers at a time via truck, SEACOR has a tug boat that can handle up to six barges, loaded with containers.

Container-on-barge service previously operated between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but went away because of the disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina. It wasn’t brought back until SEACOR resumed the service.

The designation as a marine highway allows the Baton Rouge port to apply for a $1.9 million grant with the U.S. Maritime Administration to cover the cost of specialized equipment to load containers on barges.

“Right now, they’re using a big crane to load the barges and it’s real slow,” Marionneaux said. “They can do 12 boxes an hour.” The new equipment is capable of loading 25 containers per hour on a barge, he said.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.