The St. Louis area relies heavily on its Norfolk Southern and CSX rail link to the Port of Virginia, hundreds of miles on the East Coast, to maintain its position “as one of the major centers for freight and shipping. multimodal distribution in the United States. ”The relationship was discussed in detail at the FreightWeekSTL 2021 conference, hosted by Bi-State Development, which operates the St. Louis Regional Freightway.
Aaron Katrancha, Breakbulk, Ro-Ro and Rail sales manager for the Port of Virginia, spoke with Mary Lamie, executive vice president of multimodal companies at Two-state development. Lamie noted that the Saint-Louis regional freight the organization “is taking the lead in helping to ensure shippers are aware of scheduled rail services and the benefits they offer.”
The St. Louis Regional Freightway is described as “a two-state development company formed to create a regional freight district and full authority for freight operations and opportunities in eight counties in Illinois and Missouri, which include the metropolitan region of Saint-Louis. Public and private sector companies collaborate with the St. Louis Regional Freightway on marketing, public advocacy, and freight and infrastructure development.
“The Port of Virginia is one of the main gateways from the St. Louis region to the world,” Katrancha said. “Dedicated rail service provided by Norfolk Southern and CSX connects the St. Louis area to the East Coast port, where more than $ 900 million has been invested over the past three years. This investment doubled the capacity of the Port of Virginia and improved the efficiency of transporting freight on and off rail and ocean carriers. This translates to time and money savings for importers and exporters in the St. Louis area who use the Port of Virginia and its shipping services for global connectivity.
“We have 30 weekly services with our ocean carrier customers, giving shippers in the community of St. Louis or any of our domestic routes many options. You can get to virtually anywhere in the world from the Port of Virginia – Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Indian Subcontinent, Middle East, Mediterranean, South America – you name it. We have these global connections to deliver the St Louis market. ”
Of its 30 shipping services, Katrancha said 11 were Asian, “which demonstrates the transition in global freight flows in recent years. While it was once this trans-Pacific trade connected to the west coast, today the Port of Virginia’s largest trading partner, both for import and export, is China, with ships arriving at the port. via the Suez Canal and the widening of the Panama Canal. This has enabled the Port of Virginia to increase the volumes passing through the port and underscores the importance of its partnerships with railways. Rail links between intermodal stations in the St. Louis area and the Port of Virginia work very well as a commercial airline. service – according to a very concrete timetable on which our customers can adjust their watches. “
From the St. Louis area, Norfolk Southern currently offers scheduled service six days a week, on both the import and export side. On the import side, once a train is loaded at the port, it reaches the Norfolk South Terminal in St. Louis in four days to be picked up by truck and driven to its final destination. Likewise, CSX on the import side offers regular service five days a week, with its trains reaching the CSX terminal in East St. Louis, Ill., In four days as well. On the export side, the CSX scheduled service runs once a week, but Katrancha said that “depends on the volume, and once there are new customers it can increase”.
“The benefit for customers in the St. Louis area is the combination of nearby intermodal terminals served by the two Class I railways that provide highly efficient services connecting the Port of Virginia, which also builds capacity. and the efficiency of our port terminals and the port for the future, ”Katrancha said. “The flexibility, reliability, efficiency of this global connection are really essential. Considering the volumes passing through the Port of Virginia in recent months, even in the midst of COVID-19, it is evident that shippers have already discovered this gateway and are benefiting from the investments that have been made at the Port of Virginia, including the The addition of two new ship-to-shore cranes, which are 175 feet tall are the largest in the Americas, capable of handling the largest ships entering the port area. Two more cranes will be added this year, offering even greater efficiency. “
“November 2020 has been a banner month for us at the port,” said Katrancha. “In March, we almost broke that record. It really does mean something because March usually doesn’t beat November, the rush hour for us. Despite the high volumes, with the efficiency and capacity that we have invested in the terminals, our parameters have remained the same. “
These measurements measure truck turnaround times and how quickly a box can be loaded onto a railcar from the seagoing vessel or vice versa, “and it stayed within the 48 hour threshold, which was critical for the port. during this period, ”noted Katrancha. “Not only did they not miss a beat and were able to accept more ships than they ever had before, but some of the ships they got were because they couldn’t fit into another. port elsewhere. Some of these ships were late coming from other places. We were able, inside our bunk windows, to efficiently work the ships, move the crates between the stacks, work the rail and make the trucks work to get them out of the door. It’s really a testament to not only our operations team and the great work they do there, but also all the work that has gone into creating these efficiencies. ”
The port currently transports approximately 3.2 million TEU (twenty foot equivalent units) per year, which equates to approximately 1.7 million 40 foot containers per year. There is a good balance between imports and exports, which is especially important when looking at the rail side of the business, ”Katrancha said. “Everywhere between 32% and 38% of our activities travel by rail. It’s a difficult network for railways and port terminals to manage if you move around in a bunch of empty wagons so you can deal with an imbalance between imports and exports. Our relative balance between imports and exports on rail provides additional efficiency for our rail services. And it’s also good for senders. It creates efficiency.
Katrancha said ocean carriers want the most direct service for their containers, which make up a large portion of their assets. “Shipping carriers want them back as quickly as possible,” he said. “So it’s important to bring containers to a market and then remove them as efficiently as possible. We have the most direct train service to and from Saint-Louis. We offer not only freight owners but also container lines a very efficient product ”