Port Authority new building

The original conveyor belt system allows the transfer of product off barges at St. Joseph’s port, but a new system will be able to separate products to either of two storage buildings.

Transportation of goods by river to the Gulf of Mexico is not conducive with water heights so far this year. However, the St. Joseph Port operator, Transport 360, LLC, is ready to move product when the water does go down.

Bill Becker, chief executive officer for Transport 360, called the amount of water seen so far this year on Midwestern rivers “highly unusual.”

“Right now, the Missouri River actually is well under control. It’s a little high, but you could send barges,” Becker said. “But they can’t be interchanged in St. Louis, because the Mississippi is too high.”

Transport 360 has a new building for operations in St. Joseph, doubling the port’s overall size to 10,000 tons of storage. Port officials hosted a St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce Diplomats Club meeting to show off the facility Thursday morning.

Toward the end of the month, a new conveyor belt system also will be added to the facility.

That leaves Becker optimistic about the possibilities of transporting products such as fertilizer, grain, steel coils or even wind-generation equipment along the river.

The flooding is “a nationwide issue, but these are once in every 10-to-15-year problems,” Becker said. “The good thing about a backup or a backlog is that once it opens back up, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity and a lot of commerce at that point.”

The conveyor belts will allow Transport 360 the ability to transfer tons of product to and from barge to either building, which share a common wall.

Inbound products could include fertilizer, which would be used in the surrounding area, while grains could be shipped out, ending up in places as far away as Southeast Asia.

Becker spoke to the chamber diplomats about how one barge can equal 65 to 70 semi-truck loads of product.

“It has to do with the river depth and so forth, but generally around 1,500 tons (per barge),” Becker said. “And so you think about that; a truck on the highway is around 22 to 25 tons.”