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How to kickstart America's marine highway system

MARAD, United States Maritime Administration, has awarded over 33 million dollars in grants to 31 projects located in coastal states over the last 10 years. These grants are a push to decrease roadway congestion, increase freight carrying capacity and decrease emissions. Marine highway projects are initiatives to start container-on-barge services which carry freight along designated coastal routes to provide an alternative to trucking along our highways. There are now several successful programs. One operated by SEACOR carries containers along the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, the Port Of Virginia carries cans to Hampton, VA from Richmond, VA, and Columbia Group provides service from Richmond, VA to Baltimore and Philadelphia.

While there has been some success there have also been several failures. This is because in many regions there has not been mass adoption by the shipping community. Why? Admiral Buzby attributes this to a lack of awareness of the options. “Admiral BUZBY. Short sea shipping, the barriers, I think, that are keeping us from really surging ahead thus far, I would say, number one, is probably awareness, education of shippers, that there are these ultimate means.” Shippers are used to using trucks and do not understand the offering of container-on-barge services. We at OpenTug have calculated that in many cases, shipping volume by barge could be up to 25% cheaper than the same volume shipped by many trucks. Additionally, barges provide predictable schedules, no delays due to congestion, and offer consistent pricing.

If shippers had an easy way to understand these services and the benefits, we believe that mass adoption could occur. This would create a plethora of public and private benefits. Container-on-barge adoption would alleviate coastal highway truck traffic, reduce GHG emissions and save shippers money. Truckers could focus on less demanding and faster shorter haul runs.

In order to kickstart America’s marine highway system, the maritime community must make it easy to use and get the service in front of the masses. OpenTug is on a mission to do exactly that. Services can now use targeted advertising, easy online booking, and management tools to incentivize shippers to book one of their services. By allowing barge’s space to be booked as easily as booking a hotel room, OpenTug will give shippers the transparency and connectivity to integrate marine services into their rapidly evolving supply chains.

Europe has successfully implemented short sea shipping as a supplement to trucking. The Netherlands, for example, carries +4,000,000 TEUs by inland waterways every year. This innovation has reduced their emissions, decreased their traffic, and optimized their supply chains.

It’s time to digitally kickstart America’s marine highway.

We are interested in connecting with anyone who shares similar visions of cheaper transport, cleaner air, and reduced traffic.

Contact us today.