JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — In 2018, Sal Litrico visited Jefferson City to talk about what a potential Missouri River port should include to appeal to customers.
Four years later, the CEO of a Miami shipping company visits Missouri’s capital again as his company moves forward with plans to begin transporting goods in container ships down the Mississippi River and eventually on the Missouri River.
During a presentation Monday evening to the Heartland Port Authority and guests, Litrico said its main facility would be built in New Orleans and the first stop would be in Memphis. They have enough cargo commitments for the company to build four ships that will operate between these two stops and they expect to be operational by April 2024.
Last year, APH announced plans to build a container port facility in Herculaneum that would serve the Midwest region. This facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024, six months after the opening of the Memphis facility.
What happens next is to be determined.
Litrico said Kansas City officials had received a $10 million grant for work on a harbor that would be able to service APH boats and they had more than 400 acres of land along the Missouri River. to work.
Whether or not Jefferson City is a stop depends on how the Port of Heartland develops.
The boats APH would use would be 134 feet long, 106 feet wide and 41 feet high. Litrico said they were designed to pass under bridges they would encounter over the Missouri between St. Louis and Kansas City. They could hold up to 1,860 containers. Each of them is 20 feet.
The boats could also operate at depths of 7 to 10 feet. Some of those present on Monday mentioned that the US Army Corps of Engineers only has one navigation season on the section of the Missouri River in this area which lasts from April 1 to December 1. 1. Thus, water levels during the winter do not allow transport.
Litrico said he has discussed with the Corps the possibility of a one-year sailing season, showing the potential for economic development with the additional shipping traffic.
“We’d like to operate 9-10 feet deep, but we wanted to be able to operate down to seven feet,” Litrico said. “However, if you go that low, you have to leave more freight on the docks because you can’t be that heavy.”
Agricultural exports are expected to be the dominant cargo, as Litrico noted that 85% of soybean exports travel down the Mississippi River. Other products that could be shipped include forest products, which Heartland Council research has found to be one of the biggest shipping potentials in central Missouri.
“New ports must be designed to adapt to new technologies and accommodate new ships,” Litrico said. “Ports must be built with future technologies in mind. Don’t think small, think big. You must have this imprint in mind. You need to build phase one, but be prepared for phase 3 and don’t limit yourself to that.
Regarding what Litrico suggested, Jefferson City had to work to start a port:
• Identify a developer.
• Secure a high volume shipper who would like to save money. Litrico said studies have shown there are savings of 25 to 55 percent when using all water transport.
“You also need to secure your funding and showing shippers the amount of savings they’ll see is key to that,” Litrico said. “Shippers need another option because the issues we are seeing at West Coast ports (with ground and unloaded loading delays) are not going away. So you need a new system without constraints like what we offer.
If all of this happens and a Heartland port is built to align with the ships APH will use, Litrico believed a facility in Jefferson City could be ready by 2025.
There was no discussion as to whether or not it would be better to locate a port on the north side of the river or on the south side. Litrico said the group should consider developing a port as a consolidation location where you can bring products to site and prepare them for shipment to site, which would mean additional savings for shipping customers.