HARLINGEN, TX- The Port of Harlingen has been awarded a U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Division (MARAD), Marine Highway Project Designation for the creation of a Container on Barge service. The Port is one of 46 projects in the United States to receive this designation as part of the 2020 application process awarded by then Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
MARAD is the agency responsible for America’s waterborne transportation and marine highway system, and infrastructure. Project designation allows for ports to seek federal grant funding and receive preferential support for new services, or the expansion of existing Marine Highway services that offer public benefits and long-term sustainability. Marine Highway Projects are chosen for their importance to local economies, travel times, and public safety.
“This is exciting to be included in the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Program,” Port of Harlingen Board Chair Alan Johnson said. “This designation allows us access to funding to establish this service and expand the capabilities at our Port that open up many new opportunities not only for us, but for Harlingen and the region to bring in industry looking for container on barge transport.”
Container on barge is a method of freight transport where goods are moved in containers, which are stacked on a barge and towed to a destination on an inland waterway. With this Project Designation, The Port will be able to seek grant funding to establish and eventually expand a container on barge service line for the lifetime of the project. Allowing the service line to grow as the Port does. This service will also allow the Port of Harlingen to expand not only local services, but also the reach of marine highway services along Marine Highways M-69, M-10 and M-95 corridors and connecting terminals.
Utilizing container on barge is estimated to not only mitigate highway traffic by moving commodities via barge versus truck, but also move them more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly manner. According to the National Waterways Foundation, one 15-Barge Tow is equivalent to 216 rail cars, or six locomotives, or 1,050 large semi-tractor trailers. In terms of energy efficiency, the number of tons that can be carried per gallon of fuel by truck is 59 miles, by rail is 202 miles and by barge is 514 miles.
“Water transport is one of the most efficient, responsible and safest ways to transport goods,” Port of Harlingen Director Walker Smith said. “There are many industries already in our area that can take advantage of container on barge services reducing cost and increasing safety of transport. We anticipate this service line, once established, will greatly impact our economy and will underscore Harlingen’s potential for economic growth.”
Container on barge service is one of many milestones The Port of Harlingen is working to accomplish as part of their Master and Strategic Plan. Currently, the Port has five construction and facility upgrade projects totaling $6.8 million underway as part of the Rider 38 Grant Program though the Texas Department of Transportation.