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Future Launch of Ship-Based Container Service to the Midwest

New Value-Added Supply Chain Service Will Offer Shippers Lower-Cost Transit

The collaborative effort to launch the first patented container-on-vessel (COV) service in the Midwest continues to make great strides, with several key milestones achieved in recent weeks. Work is already underway to prepare for the safe launch of the patented vessels, which will operate on a new north-south all-water trade route connecting the St. Louis area to the lower Mississippi and global destinations.

Sal Litrico, general manager of American Patriot Container Transport LLC (APCT) had a lot to say about the development. He said optionality is needed more than ever, given recent transportation and logistics issues that have created major challenges for shippers with no real end in sight, coupled with exponential growth projections for containerized freight.

Litrico said the new COV service has three key components. The first is the new regional gateway terminal located on the Gulf Coast in Plaquemines Parish, which will provide full intermodal service across the widest and deepest part of the river without operational constraints. The second is strategically located Midwestern partner ports, which, like the Gateway Terminal, will be state-of-the-art and incorporate automation and an environmental footprint.

The third stage is the patented, state-of-the-art, purpose-built vessel, which will come in two classes – the Liner that will transport containers on the Mississippi River and smaller hybrid vessels that will operate in the rivers. tributaries. Litrico said the ships have significant competitive advantages, including critical mass volume and speed.

One of the milestones reached recently is the tender for the construction of four new ships, with an option for four more. These will be built in US shipyards as required by the Jones Act, a federal law, and Litrico said they continue to work closely with interested shipyards to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome in the next 30 to 45 days.

Another milestone is the signing of long-term freight commitments for the first phase of operations, which is service between the Gateway Terminal and Memphis, which is expected to be the first hub port in the Midwest to come into service. This service will include four dedicated vessels capable of making the round trip in 6.2 days. The Gateway Terminal secured initial rail financing and APM Terminals, part of Maersk, agreed to operate the terminal.

Regarding phase two of the initiative, Litrico said it is working with key beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) and shippers to secure freight commitments, which will include four additional vessels and subsequent ports in the Midwest. , which will be determined by shippers later this year. . The operational start date is scheduled for the second half of 2024.

Hawtex Development Corporation plays a key role in the development of container terminals on inland waterway systems, helping to identify suitable locations where inland vessels could enter the port and where they would develop a true inland intermodal container yard. Memphis and the St. Louis area are two sites they have targeted.

Hawtex President James Hurley said they are currently under development at both locations, with potential ports also being considered for Joliet, Illinois and Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Jefferson City and Kansas City feeder ports would also be part of the system. Focusing on the Herculaneum, Missouri site, just south of St. Louis, Missouri, he said they have a development agreement with Fred Weber/Riverview Commerce Park, which manages current operations, and are in talks. with a second owner to bring them into the project.

The new inland container terminal at Herculaneum would be built on approximately 75 acres, and there are over 125 additional acres for further development of an industrial park behind the terminal, taking advantage of proximity to Interstate 55 and the existing rail connection. Hurley said they are completing 10% design drawings by Vickermon & Associates, a Virginia port and intermodal design firm, and hope to secure a construction contract within months with the goal of making operations available at Herculaneum d by fall 2024. .

As the debut of new ships on the waterways draws closer, the APCT is working closely with Captain John Arenstam, USCG (Retired), Assistant Director of the Seamen’s Church Institute’s Center for Maritime Education (SCI). Arenstam is the project manager for SCI regarding the partnership with the APCT, and has four different areas of interest: ship modeling, port feasibility studies, navigation, officer assessments and navigation training.

Daniel Every, U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander and Prevention Department Chief, Upper Mississippi River Area, also plays an important role in ensuring the safe launch of this new service.

Mary Lamie, Executive Vice President of Multi Modal Enterprises for Bi-State Development and Head of the St. Louis Regional Freightway moderated the COV discussion which focused on progress being made towards the launch of the service as part of the first day of FreightWeekSTL 2022. FreightWeekSTL 2022 continues online through May 27 and will feature panel discussions with other freight, logistics and transportation industry experts and leaders.

The week-long event is presented by St. Louis Regional Freightway and Bi-State Development in conjunction with The Waterways Journal. To learn more and register for remaining sessions or view past FreightWeekSTL 2022 sessions, visit

About St. Louis Regional Freightway

The St. Louis Regional Freightway is a bi-state development enterprise formed to create a regional freight district and comprehensive authority for freight operations and opportunity in eight counties in Illinois and Missouri, which include the metropolitan area of St. Louis. Public and private sector companies are working with the St. Louis Regional Freightway to make the bistate region one of the premier multimodal freight and distribution centers in the United States through marketing, public outreach and freight and infrastructure development. For more information, visit