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The first barge of the 2018 navigation season moored at the port on the Missouri River. According to officials, it was filled with distillers dried grains with solubles over the next several days.

Transport 360 and the St. Joseph Regional Port Authority announced Thursday the arrival of the first barge of the 2018 navigation season.

The empty barge arrived at the port about 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to port officials. It will be docked at the port and filled with distillers dried grains with solubles over the next several days. The grains are used as a feed ingredient as both an energy and protein supplement for livestock.

It’s anticipated that Missouri River Services tow company will pick up the full barge on or before Wednesday, Aug. 8, for its journey down the Missouri River.

The barge’s cargo is destined for international export through the river system to St. Louis and then the Gulf of Mexico. The cargo is primarily from the ICM corn-based ethanol plant in St. Joseph, and from several other ethanol plants in the region.

Officials said numerous other barges will be filled in St. Joseph with dried grains through the remainder of the 2018 navigation season, which is expected to close in mid-December.

Gavilon Ingredients, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, is the shipping entity for the barge.

Brad Lau, the port authority’s executive director and vice president of economic development for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, said Transport 360 has been sourcing business for the port since it entered into a lease and operational agreement in June. The company bills itself as a full-service freight transload entity, utilizing the bulk advantages of barge and rail transportation modes to promote commerce in the region. It is a newly formed division of MK Minerals Inc. in Wathena, Kansas.

“Utilizing the port for international shipments makes our city an even larger player in the export arena,” Lau said. St. Joseph currently ranks third in exports from Missouri behind St. Louis and Kansas City.

Bill Becker, Transport 360’s chief executive officer, said the dried grains in one barge would require approximately 58 large tractor-trailers to carry the same tonnage. Using a barge and helps in removing traffic congestion from the highways.

“We have been looking at products that make the most sense,” Becker said, noting those in the agricultural world are being targeted. There’s also potential for moving steel coils and fertilizer through the port, he said, adding that he’s excited about the prospect the exports. He credited the port authority for its vision.

“We’ve been working on this for a while,” he said of developing activity for the port. “And we have multiple companies that actually have an interest. Many companies see this as a viable solution for freight.”

Becker said barge loading will start slowly today, continue Saturday and then resume Monday.

An ICM official said the port is representative of the success of public and private partnerships.

“This project is a great example of how quickly businesses and government can provide new opportunities when a vision is put in motion,” said Dwayne Braun, general manager of the ICM Biofuels plant in St. Joseph. “ICM Biofuels has had plans if a river shipment opportunity ever arose, we would certainly be interested.”

According to Becker, activity at the port is expected to gradually increase for the duration of the existing navigation season, with a greater number of barges anticipated to call on St. Joseph.

Ray Scherer can be reached at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.