There’s a lot going on the Missouri River in St. Joseph as far as transportation this summer.
The same could not be said about last year, as only a few barges passed through Transport 360, the operator behind the St. Joseph Port Authority. Near the halfway point of this navigation season, the company has seen more than 25 barges already, according to CEO Bill Becker, who was also the founder and former CEO of LifeLine Foods.
“One of the things that is different this year than last year is the fact that the river is not flooding for the first three months of the year,” Becker said. “We’re on pace actually to do about 50 barges this complete cycle, and to put that in perspective, that’s about 3,000 semis off the highways.”
Transport 360 also has a brand new building and conveyor belt system, which means the company is pretty efficient when loading and unloading products. Product unloaded from barges travels by various conveyor belts to the top of the building, where it can be held in either side of the 10,000 storage facility.
Becker said the quickest they’ve gotten a barge loaded up with product was seven hours.
Working at a quick speed like that is not a normal occurrence for relatively new operator. Transport 360 began a lease agreement with the port authority in June of 2018.
Most of the items Transport 360 ships down the river go through the Gulf of Mexico, such as agricultural products like soybeans and corn.
“And then coming in we’re seeing things like salt, fertilizer, metals and different large components,” Becker said.
Jason Laipple is the general manager at Transport 360. He said it typically takes about 10 hours to unload a barge, and then a detailed cleaning of it is performed.
Many times agricultural products are being exported through the port, and at the same time some farmers are getting fertilizer sent by barge.
“We’ve unloaded several different types, so it depends on that, but there’s typically about 1,600 ton on barge, so that’ll cover several farmers,” Laipple said.
The next barge is coming up by tow boat from St. Louis and will be arriving this weekend. It will be loaded with distillers’ dried grains waiting in the storage warehouse.