Missouri River Navigators Optimistic For 2017

February 13, 2017



More than 100 stakeholders met to discuss Missouri River challenges and opportunities at the 27th annual meeting of the Missouri River Navigators held at the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City, Mo., February 8.

Stakeholders in attendance included representatives from ports, shippers, state and local agencies, the Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard and other federal agencies who discussed the upcoming 2017 navigation season. Topics ranged from current climate conditions, Subchapter M and state freight plans to river information systems, agriculture shipping and organization updates.

In addition to looking ahead to the 2017 navigation season, many stakeholders touted 2016 as a strong year for the Missouri River. As one attendee noted, “We have been growing [the Missouri River] under the most adverse of circumstances.”

Missouri River Successes

Robert Grenville, vice president-port operations at Port KC, as the Kansas City port is known, said 2016 was a good season for the port. “We had great cargo,” he said. “We handled about 45,000 tons at our port. The Missouri River is not dead for navigation.”

In 2015, the port handled just under 13,000 tons of product. The bulk of its 2016 tonnage consisted of outbound shredded scrap and inbound fertilizer and mill scale. Grenville also announced a couple of new developments at the port, including its new multimodal status.

Grenville said the port just completed its $4 million rail project at its terminal. “Being fully multimodal was a missing piece at our port,” said Grenville, who added that he is optimistic about 2017. Port KC also intends to expand its storage this year, but plans have yet to be released.

Other Missouri River stakeholders echoed similar sentiments as Grenville in terms of 2016 being a good season for shipping on the river. Companies like MFA Inc. and ADM loaded barges on the Missouri River for the first time in more than a decade. ADM’s Growmark facility shipped 50,000 tons last year after not loading a barge in 15 years. For MFA Inc., it was the first time in 12 years the company shipped product on the river.

Companies like Hermann (Mo.) Sand & Gravel, Capital Sand Company, Jefferson City, Mo., and AGRIServices of Brunswick also enjoyed a profitable 2016 season.

Capt. Steve Engemann of Hermann Sand & Gravel, who spoke at the meeting, said his company began a new division, known as Missouri River Towing, to let prospective customers know the company ships more than sand. “We tow fertilizer, grain and oversized cargo, too,” he said.

While sand is the most common commodity moved on the Missouri River, Engemann said his company had an outstanding year on shipping all of its commodities. “For 2016, we predicted a 25 percent increase,” he said. “We actually had a 75 percent increase.”

Capital Sand was able to ship 95,000 tons of cement from Hannibal, Mo., to Jefferson City in 2016. AGRIServices of Brunswick experienced an uptick in barges last year, according to Business Development Manager Lucy Fletcher. In 2016, the company brought in 112 barges and reloaded 102.

Jim Upchurch of Howard & Cooper County Port Authority said the port is planning a new dock this year. The port, which is located at Mile 196.1 across from Booneville, Mo., is strategically located near heavy grain producing counties. “It’s great to introduce people to the idea of shipping on the river who never had an opportunity to think about it berfore,” said Upchurch.

Growing Numbers

And like the increased tonnage and developments on the Missouri River, the Navigators’ meeting has grown, too.

Sheryl Carrubba, Navigation Program manager for the Northwestern Engineer Division, said attendance to the meeting has grown by approximately 20 percent over the last few years. “[The increase in attendance] is a result of efforts by both the Corps and the navigation industry to communicate openly with each other,” she said. “The Corps of Engineers looks forward to a continued partnership with the navigation industry and other stakeholders to support navigation on the Missouri River and to collaborate on the resolution of issues of concern.”

More details on the meeting will be published in upcoming issues of The Waterways Journal.