American Waterways Operators promotes
barges to transport dry cargo
Barging is the most economical mode of cargo transportation,
able to transport bulk commodities like grain, coal, petroleum
and salt for a fraction of the cost of moving them by truck or
rail. Barging is also the most environmentally friendly mode: one
large inland towboat can push 40 barges that have the same
carrying capacity as more than 2,400 trucks, resulting in
significantly fewer hydrocarbons entering the air.
Dry cargo barges, or hopper barges, transport solid cargo
commodities like grain, coal, sugar, sand, gravel, etc. Depending
on the cargo, dry cargo barges may be open or covered. For
example, sugar would likely be transported in a covered hopper
barge, while sand could be carried in an open dry cargo barge.
A towboat is a powerful boat with a flat front that pushes
barges on rivers. Towboats typically have flat hulls to
accommodate the shallower depths of the nation’s inland
Towboats push barges on the nation’s inland waterways loaded
with materials and products that are the building blocks of
America’s economy — coal, grain, petroleum products,
petrochemicals, fertilizers, sand, gravel, metal scrap, etc. One tow
can be comprised of anywhere from one to 40 barges.
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) is the national
trade association representing the owners and operators of
tugboats, towboats, and barges serving the waterborne
commerce of the United States.
Its mission is to promote the long-term economic soundness
of the industry, and to enhance the industry’s ability to provide
safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible transportation,
through advocacy, public information, and the establishment of
safety standards.
Facts about the American tugboat, towboat and barge
  On its inland waterways and coasts, America’s tugboat,
towboat and barge industry:
  • transports 20% of America’s coal — enough to produce 10% of all electricity used each year in the US;
  • moves over 60% of US grain exports, accounting for $8.5 billion in exports, helping American farmers compete withforeign producers;
  • carries most of New England’s home heating oil and gasoline.
  Barges directly serve 87% of all major US cities, accounting
for 79% of all domestic waterborne freight.
  Today’s fleet of nearly 4,000 modern tugboats and towboats
and more than 27,000 barges moves over 800mt (million
tonnes) each year of raw materials and finished goods.
  The industry allows the United States to take advantage of
one of its greatest natural resources — the 25,000-mile
waterway system — and adds $5 billion a year to the US
  Waterways transportation is the most economical mode of
commercial freight transportation. This is due to the enormous
capacity of a barge. For example, a typical inland barge has a
capacity 15 times greater than one rail car and 60 times greater
than one semi trailer truck.
  Waterways transportation is the most environmentallyfriendly
mode of commercial transportation. The greater fuel
efficiency of tugboats and towboats results in cleaner air.
  Waterways transportation contributes to the American
quality of life by moving goods off the already-congested roads
and rails and away from crowded population centres.
  The American tugboat, towboat and barge industry is an
important element in the nation’s intermodal transportation
network, and contributes to the American economy,
environment, national security and quality of life.
Waterways transportation is the safest mode of commercial
freight transportation, with the least number of accidents of any
The Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership, the first industry-
Coast Guard partnership of its kind, has launched more than 25
quality action teams that are improving safety and training
throughout the industry’s operations.
AWO has worked closely with the Coast Guard in the Coast
Guard-AWO Safety Partnership to achieve a dramatic 82%
reduction in oil spills just since 1994.
AWO is the only transportation trade association to require,
as a condition of membership, that all our members comply with
a third-party audited, US Coast Guard-recognized safety and
environmental protection regime — the Responsible Carrier
The Responsible Carrier Program (RCP)
The Responsible Carrier Program is a set of safety and
environmental protection practices that exceeds government
How specifically does the RCP protect the environment? It
puts into place safety systems that prevent accidents — most
spills and environmental damage result from accidents — from
comprehensive crew training to vessel maintenance procedures
to equipment requirements.
As of 1 January 2000, all members of AWO were required to
undergo a comprehensive, third-party audit by professional,
experienced and knowledgeable auditors, to demonstrate their
compliance with the RCP in order to retain their AWO
membership. AWO members demonstrated their serious
commitment to the RCP by voting to drop 13 non-compliant
members on 1 January 2000 and forfeit their dues revenue.
The Responsible Carrier Program continues to evolve,
constantly upgrading and improving the safety environment of
the industry to protect workers, the public and our precious
A smaller carbon footprint
Inland barge transportation produces far fewer emissions of
carbon dioxide for each tonne of cargo moved compared to
transport by truck or rail, according to a recent study conducted
by the Texas Transportation Institute. Comparing transport
emissions per tonne-mile (emissions generated while shipping
one ton of cargo one mile), researchers calculated that transport
by rail emits 39% more CO2, and transport by truck emits 371%
more CO2, than transport by inland barge.
According to the study, if the 274.4 billion tonne-miles of
activity on America’s inland waterways in 2005 were shifted to
rail or truck, rail transport would have generated an additional
2.1mt of CO2 and truck transport would have generated an
additional 14.2mt of CO2. This assumes these modes had the
capacity to handle the additional cargo with no change in
Transport on America’s waterways means fewer

Following a scientific review ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court,
the EPA (Environment Protection Authority) recently issued a
proposed finding that “greenhouse gases contribute to air
pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.”
The agency estimates that 33% of the nation’s annual carbon
dioxide emissions come from transport-related activity.
Compared to rail or truck, inland barges offer America a more
fuel efficient, safer and carbon friendly transportation alternative.
AEP River Operations: reaching into
the heartland of the USA
One of the carrier member companies of the AWO is AEP River
Operations. Headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, AEP River
Operations offers a high level of service in barge transportation
of dry bulk commodities throughout the inland river system.
This includes the movement of grain, project cargo, coal, steel,
ores and other bulk products. Its fleet of over 3,100 hopper
barges ranks as one of the newest and most dependable in the
industry, ensuring the quality of its clients’ products. This young
fleet reduces delays caused by older equipment issues like
unscheduled maintenance and repairs or product contamination.
In fact, AEP River Operations now offers the largest covered
hopper fleet of any carrier. Complementing its barge operations
is a fleet of 85 boats ranging in horsepower from 1,550hp fleet
boats up to its lower river big tow 11,000s. In 2009, the
company moved over 70mt (million tonnes) of cargo for its
customers. Grain, coal, steel, construction materials and
agricultural products are major dry bulk commodities
transported by AEP River Operations.
AEP River Operations has professional staff at offices in its
St. Louis, MO headquarters, as well as in its regional offices in
Pittsburgh, PA; Convent, LA; Lakin, WV; Paducah, KY and Mobile,
AL. It also has highly trained crews on its towboats. In total, it
employs 1,465 people. It is a Responsible Carrier Programcertified
company with a mission and focus to be a leading
supplier of safe, competitively priced marine transportation to its
AEP utilizes all the major waterways, and has a broad
geographical reach that includes the Gulf Coast, Minneapolis,
Chicago, Pittsburgh and Brownsville.
A barge is one welded steel box inside another welded steel
box, held together (and apart) by steel framing. The outside box
is called the hull and the inside box is known as the cargo
compartment or cargo box. The space between the hull and the
cargo box is further divided into discrete compartments called
void spaces, made up of end tanks and wing tanks. The void
spaces provide flotation and protect the cargo if the outer hull is
damaged. If the hull is damaged in one or two tanks, the barge
will usually continue to float.
As noted above, using barges to transport dry bulk
cargo is a much ‘greener’ alternative. The cargo carried
by a single barge would require 16 railcars, or 70
trucks, to transport. One loaded covered hopper barge
carriers 58,333 bushels of wheat, enough to make
almost 2.5 million loaves of bread. The amount of fuel
required to move a barge is considerably less than
other alternatives. A single gallon of fuel will move a
barge 576 miles, which compares favourably to rail (413
miles) and truck (144 miles). One 15-barge tow could
replace 216 railcars with six locomotives, or 1,050 large
semi tractor-trailers. Because of this, barges are not
only more environmentally friendly, but are also a more
economical solution. Further, AEP River Operations’
towboats are becoming ever more economical, with
higher-efficiency engines, which save up to 15% in fuel
consumption, and reduce emissions by an estimated
40%. These new towboats are among the most sophisticated
boats operating on the inland waterways today. As part of its
SEE GREEN initiative, AEP River Operations had, as of October
2009, rescued from a landfill approximately 1,500 cubic yards of
materials. That is half a barge load, or enough waste to cover a
football field two feet deep.
AEP River Operations offers a streamlined service, whereby
exports from the US heartland are barged south to the US Gulf.
Barges then unload at terminals or ships in the Gulf. Barges are
then reloaded with imported materials, and commodities are
barged north into US industries.
AEP River Operations ships over 70 million tonnes each year. It
has broad capabilities and expertise in handling a wide range of
cargo. It also has extensive experience transporting and handling
bulk commodities, combined with high-quality operations and
technology and a proven commitment to customer satisfaction.
It also takes its civic duties and green responsibilities very
seriously. In terms of safety for its staff, this is improving every
day. Despite the fact that its man hours are increasing, its
employees are safer than ever.
Barge and rail shipments increase
at Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville
During the first five months of 2010,
shipments have been on the rise at the Port
of Indiana-Jeffersonville. River barge
shipments have increased 35% year to date
and rail traffic moving cargoes in and out of
the port has grown more than 70%. The port
has seen steady growth in shipments of base
commodities — grain, fertilizer, steel, salt,
asphalt, minerals, plastics and petroleum —
since November 2009.
“Most port tenants have not fully
rebounded to pre-recession numbers, but the
increases in shipments seem to be indicating
some economic recovery in the region,” said
Matt Smolek, port director at the Port of
Indiana-Jeffersonville. “The majority of the
port’s tenants are suppliers to other
industries, such as automotive, appliance and
agriculture. When demand increases in those
industries, our tonnage figures will generally follow.”
The Jeffersonville port is home to 27 businesses, including
more than a dozen steel companies. Top commodities by
volume traditionally include grain, fertilizer, salt and steel, but the
port moves a variety of cargoes. One recent addition is
Diamond Pro infield conditioner, used on baseball and softball
fields throughout the region.
“Our goal at the Ports of Indiana is to create a sustainable
competitive advantage for our customers that will help grow the
state’s economy,” Smolek said. “Port companies benefit by being
able to move cargo by rail, road and barge. One of our steel
companies estimates it saves as much as $10 per tonne in
logistics costs by being located at the port.”
The Ports of Indiana is a statewide port authority that
operates a system of three ports on the Ohio River and Lake
Michigan in Mount Vernon, Burns Harbor and Jeffersonville. The
Ports of Indiana manages approximately 2,600 acres, which are
home to 60 companies and 800 acres of available industrial sites.
Barge and rail shipments increase at Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville
Increased use of rail at the Port of Grimsby
is good news for the environment
Built by a railway company, Associated
British Ports’ (ABP) Port of Grimsby in
the UK has always had a long history
with the rail freight industry; however,
over the last few years there has been
little activity.
Imagine the excitement, therefore, at
the recent arrival of a series of trains to
the west side of Grimsby’s Royal Dock.
The five trains arrived from Falmouth
in Cornwall over a four-week period,
loaded with bulk ferrous sulphate. The
cargo was destined for a facility that
produces products for use in the water
treatment industry, situated less than
half a mile from the port estate.
The discharge operation was
undertaken by terminal operator,
Freshney Cargo Services, with the cargo
being transferred direct from the rail
wagons to road transport.
John Fitzgerald, ABP’s Port Director,
Grimsby & Immingham said: “This was a really interesting
project and its success reminds us of Grimsby’s multimodal
potential. We are all trying to enhance the sustainability of
logistics operations and an increased use of rail provides tangible
environmental benefits. It’s great to see these types of initiatives
taking place”.
Andy Dixon, Managing Director at Freshney Cargo Services
Increased use of rail at the Port of Grimsby is good news for the environment
said: “The discharge operation went extremely well and
provided an excellent opportunity to reinstate the rail head in
Grimsby. The quayside rail access now presents a fantastic
marketing and logistics solution for the Port of Grimsby.
Freshney Cargo Services will celebrate 20 years of operating in
Grimsby later this year and we look forward to many more
years ahead of us.”