Exciting changes that could affect the way Kentucky's soybean farmers do business are coming to the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority.
Paducah provides direct water service to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico ports and is the nation's northernmost ice-free riverport. Port Executive Director Bill Miller took time this summer to visit with some of Kentucky's westernmost farmer-leaders to showcase the services that are available at the Port of Paducah.
Soybean farmers are no strangers to shipping grain by barge, but when their grain reaches ports in the Gulf, it is blended with lower protein grain from other soybean-producing states. International buyers have expressed a desire to purchase Kentucky soybeans, and container-on-barge shipping from Paducah could make those transactions a reality.
"We've been shipping barge loads of white corn to New Zealand for a while now," said farmer-leader Barry Alexander, "but that is open barge-loads. Container shipping is a completely different process, and the great thing about it is that the containers can be filled individually and stored until they have enough to fill a whole barge, or they can be sent with mixed cargo. When we fill a white-corn barge, that's some pretty intense hauling in a short period of time."
Miller said that a single barge can hold 54 containers when double-stacked, and each 20-foot container will hold approximately 880 bushels, which is close to the capacity of a single truck. He added that barge carriers in Kentucky are actively seeking business to compensate for the loss of coal production, and agriculture is already booming, especially in the western end of the state.
The Port of Paducah is affected by the Panama Canal expansion, Miller said, because it allows for additional cost effective routing to Asia. The expansion projects a shift of about 10 percent of all cargo that leaves the United States from the East Coast ports to the ports located in the Gulf of Mexico.
Paducah is included in a Foreign Trade Zone, Miller said, which affords zone-to-zone transfers, duty deferral (reductions or elimination) tax reduction and weekly document entry. Other selling points to those wishing to ship containers out of Paducah include direct water service to U.S. Gulf ports, U.S. Coast Guard regulated and secured facility, large barge fleeting, which ensures timely connection with the mother vessel and immediate expansion, and a modernized lock system between Paducah and New Orleans.
Miller says the port has self-funded the largest flat-top crane in North America for containerized cargo, self-funded the Foreign Trade Zone designation, has a master plan for container on barge service and is, in short, "open for business."