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A $3.1 million federal for new barges will improve a service aimed at reducing truck traffic between the Port of Greater Baton Rouge's container-on-barge loading terminal and the Port of New Orleans and Memphis.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $3.1 million grant for new barges that will improve a service aimed at reducing truck traffic between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The grant will support the container-on-barge shuttle service operated by SEACOR AMH between Memphis, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. This service moves empty shipping containers from Memphis to Baton Rouge where they are filled with plastic pellets produced at local petrochemical plants. The containers are then transported by barge to Port NOLA to be loaded onto container ships bound for plants in Europe, Asia and South America.

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Since the containers are being shipped by barge, they can be loaded to capacity. SEACOR officials said containers trucked to New Orleans aren’t filled up, in order to stay below highway weight limits.

In 2018, the number of barges moving between Baton Rouge and New Orleans increased by 58%. According to the federal transportation department, the state saves $118 for each roundtrip a shipping container makes down the Mississippi River instead of along Interstate 10. That's based on wear and tear on state highways.