Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/707823
40 Proceedings Summer 2016 www.uscg.mil/proceedings capacity issues. While pipelines are arguably the most efficient way to move petroleum products, the existing pipeline infrastructure was quickly over- whelmed shortly after the shale oil boom began in 2007. 8 The lengthy permitting process for new pipelines means that barges will continue to be an important enabler for America's energy renaissance. Many interstate highways are already perpetually clogged and taxed beyond capacity by tens of thou- sands of semi-trucks. Fortunately, there are oppor- tunities to shift cargo currently moved via land to domestic waterways. Doing so will relieve traffic congestion on our roads and reduce air pollution. System Expansion A 2009 report prepared for the Maritime Admin- istration (MARAD) examined this idea of mov- ing more cargo by waterways rather than by land. Among its conclusions, the report noted that further investment would be necessary to keep pace with global trade realities. 9 As such, MARAD's marine highway initiative seeks to leverage inland rivers, inter- coastal waterways, and domestic coastwise trade routes. For example, MARAD contends, with investment in port facilities along the Mississippi and its major tributaries, con- tainerized cargo could be moved to dozens of large inland urban centers such as Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis, Mis- souri; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Further, deepening lower Mississippi channel depths to accommodate larger ships will make Gulf Coast ports attractive to importers and ensure U.S. agricultural exports remain competitive with other major South American grain producers. This will relieve pressure on West Coast ports while building a layer of redundancy and resilience for America's overall marine transportation system. 10 The Missouri Department of Transportation sponsored another study that examined the feasibility of using the Mississippi River system to export large farm equipment to markets in Asia. While the report concluded that using waterways to move these machinery exports would have very positive prospects, like any new business proposal, it would require up-front investment to capitalize on the efficiencies this freight alternative offers. 11 The good news is that the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the shipping industry have col- laborated closely to develop an advanced, reliable electronic navigation system and traffic management regime on the western rivers. This ensures the continued safe use of this vital transportation network and also positions the system to accommodate increased vessel traffic. allows U.S. farmers to remain competitive with other major global agricultural powers like Brazil and Argentina. The western rivers also transport millions of tons of energy products. More than 20 percent of oil from the Bakken shale oil reserves and 20 percent of both coal exports and coal used for domestic power generation is transported on the Mississippi River system. 4 Cheap, Efficient Transportation Waterways are an essential part of the U.S. intermodal trans- portation system. Moving large volumes of goods by water is simply the cheapest, most environmentally clean way to get the job done. Consider some creative comparisons to other modes of transportation: • One gallon of fuel will transport one ton of cargo 155 miles by truck, 413 miles by rail, and 576 miles by barge. 5 • One barge can carry the same amount of cargo as 15 jumbo rail hoppers or 58 semi-truck haulers. • One barge of wheat can bake 2.25 million loaves of bread. 6 Moreover, the volumetric edge our marine transportation system enjoys over other transport methods generates enor- mous revenue. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engi- neers (USACE) maintains a 1,200-mile long navigation chan- nel (running through Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin) which generates an estimated $1 billion of transportation savings annually. 7 Additionally, other modes of transportation such as rail, road, and pipeline have significant infrastructure and Mississippi River system tugs can push dozens of barges at once. This towboat pushes 35 barges near Vicksburg, Mississippi. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jona- than Lally.