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A River Runs Through It: Is an inland waterway our future?

Logistics is grappling with too many trucks, too few drivers and calls for more sustainable transportation modes. Maybe it’s time to develop commerce on the rivers between New Orleans and St. Louis.

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This is an excerpt of the original article. It was written for the November 2021 edition of Supply Chain Management Review. The full article is available to current subscribers.

November 2021

This is the last regular issue of Supply Chain Management Review for 2021. Normally this time of year, I look forward to what’s in front of us. That’s turned out to be a fool’s errand over the last year and a half. So, instead, I looked back to see what I wrote this time last year. My column was titled “COVID hasn’t stopped supply chain progress.”
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It does take a leap of imagination (and a leap of faith) and will require investments from some large global shippers as early adopters. However, there is already some support for the idea, as some large importers have begun to use multiple container ports around North America besides the West Coast ports. Sometimes called the four corners strategy, this is where companies use multiple points of entry that are far apart from one another. One major retailer, for example, is currently using LA/Long Beach, Houston, Mobile, Savannah and Norfolk as it’s points of entry. That retailer is not alone: Other companies have applied a similar strategy.

We appreciate that this is a conceptual idea. But, the concept for an inland waterway utilizing the Mississippi is arguably a natural extension of the four corners strategy. We believe the new strategy would have several key components
and benefits. They are as follows.

  • Add a river link from New Orleans to the St. Louis region; use containers on barge or containers on specialized river vessels.
  • Use low-cost water transportation as much as possible throughout the entire end-to-end supply chain, including on the Mississippi River.
  • Get as close to the Midwest as possible by water, reaching a significant 20% of the U.S. market via this new mode.
  • As a result, further diversify risk and contribute to sustainability.

In this article we will provide background information on the concept and then discuss what must happen to make it a reality.

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Sorry, but your login has failed. Please recheck your login information and resubmit. If your subscription has expired, renew here.

From the November 2021 edition of Supply Chain Management Review.

November 2021

This is the last regular issue of Supply Chain Management Review for 2021. Normally this time of year, I look forward to what’s in front of us. That’s turned out to be a fool’s errand over the last year and a…
Browse this issue archive.
Access your online digital edition.
Download a PDF file of the November 2021 issue.

It does take a leap of imagination (and a leap of faith) and will require investments from some large global shippers as early adopters. However, there is already some support for the idea, as some large importers have begun to use multiple container ports around North America besides the West Coast ports. Sometimes called the four corners strategy, this is where companies use multiple points of entry that are far apart from one another. One major retailer, for example, is currently using LA/Long Beach, Houston, Mobile, Savannah and Norfolk as it’s points of entry. That retailer is not alone: Other companies have applied a similar strategy.

We appreciate that this is a conceptual idea. But, the concept for an inland waterway utilizing the Mississippi is arguably a natural extension of the four corners strategy. We believe the new strategy would have several key components
and benefits. They are as follows.

  • Add a river link from New Orleans to the St. Louis region; use containers on barge or containers on specialized river vessels.
  • Use low-cost water transportation as much as possible throughout the entire end-to-end supply chain, including on the Mississippi River.
  • Get as close to the Midwest as possible by water, reaching a significant 20% of the U.S. market via this new mode.
  • As a result, further diversify risk and contribute to sustainability.

In this article we will provide background information on the concept and then discuss what must happen to make it a reality.

SC
MR

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