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Container Ships Designed for Inland Waterway

Farmers are big exporters in the Midwest and often depend on bulk shipments, but a company is working on letting farmers and local elevators have more direct access to international customers.

American Patriot Holdings, LLC (APH) has developed a patented vessel design that would allow containers through rivers and even locks and dams. The Soy Transportation Coalition released a study on a new transportation system through the nation's inland waterway system.

Its "Liner" vessels can transport 2,375 twenty-foot length containers (TEUs) in the Lower Mississippi River. Its "Hybrid" vessels hold 1,700 TEUs and can navigate the lock and dam system. Both vessels can move about 13 miles per hour.

Mike Steenhoek with the Soy Transportation Coalition says containers are only about 10 percent of how soybeans and grain are shipped, but that could grow with customer demand, "What customers are telling us is they would like soybeans and grain in maybe smaller quantities so they don't have to erect as much storage in their facility. They're telling us that they want greater quality preservation, less contamination."

Steenhoek adds the vessels would make direct shipments more accessible. Their research shows transporting a vessel now from St. Louis to Shanghai would cost $197.87 per metric ton if they use river system. Using the APH vessel system costs about $108.88 per metric ton.

Using the rail line is still more efficient, sending shipments to the West Coast and then overseas costs $79.80 per metric ton.

Steenhoek says ultimately it creates extra options for Iowa farmers, there are alternative markets like identity preservation, "They want to buy soybeans and grain, not just from a particular country the United States, but also from a particular region. A particular state. Even particular farmers."