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New agreement aims to boost river freight between St. Louis and New Orleans

Hazy photo of the Mississippi River with a tugboat and the Gateway Arch in the distance.
Paul Sableman | Wikimedia Commons

A new agreement between the Port of New Orleans and the St. Louis Regional Freightway aims to boost cargo shipments on the Mississippi River.

Officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding in New Orleans on Thursday to coordinate their efforts in working with regional shippers and carriers. The goal is growing trade and building upon existing and new business relationships between the two regions and critical ports.

The agreement also calls for sharing operational information and joint marketing efforts.

Container-on-barge shipping is a key area for growth between New Orleans and St. Louis, said John Nations, president and CEO of Bi-State Development Agency,which oversees the St. Louis Regional Freightway.

“A few years ago shipping containers on the river was really not considered a great option. Now it is. You’re seeing it happen in places like Europe. You’re seeing it happening Asia and you’re seeing the financial plans regarding it and the critical logistics of it being advantageous to shippers,” he said, adding that the United States is expected to see a 40 percent increase in freight volume over the next 30 years.

“The actions we take today are laying the groundwork for our region to be a premier gateway for the freight community in the 21st century,” Nations said.

According to St. Louis Regional Freightway Executive Director Mary Lamie, new kinds of goods that could find their way up-river to the region’s three inland ports include construction material, furniture and appliances.

“…and then looking at shippers and carriers in our region for the empty containers moving downstream, we’re looking at animal feed, scrap metal, and tires,” she said.

The agreement also is intended to leverage the region’s intermodal freight capacity, which includes six of the nation’s Class 1 railroads, two international airports and four interstate highways, Lamie said.

“It’s not only going to help the inland waterways in the St. Louis region, but it’s going help all modes of transportation, which is ultimately going to attract more of those manufacturing and logistics companies,” she said.

Follow Joseph Leahy on Twitter: @joemikeleahy