Using barges to carry loaded trailers or containers between markets in the U.S. "can be the most fuel-efficient, cost-effective way to haul goods from one place to another," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told an industry group.
LaHood also told The Journal of Commerce's North American Marine Highway and Logistics Conference in Baltimore that he sent Congress a report Tuesday detailing the Obama administration's plan for spurring that alternative shipment system.
Last year at the same event, LaHood announced the formal launch of the Maritime Administration's program labeled "America's Marine Highway." This time, he said making greater use of waterways also fits in with President Obama's new goal of reducing oil imports by one-third.
That's because transportation accounts for 70 percent of U.S. oil use, he said, and shipping freight by water uses less fuel than hauling it by surface transport modes.
"Marine highways are one crucial ingredient in the recipe for energy efficiency and energy independence," LaHood said. "They'll help us send fewer of our hard-earned dollars overseas in a tough fiscal time. They'll decrease our emission of the carbon pollution that threatens our environment. They'll spur economic development and support economic expansion" by creating both mariner and U.S. shipyard jobs.
He said the DOT has invested in the benefits of using waterways for freight, with $215 million of its discretionary infrastructure grants going to marine highway and port projects.
He also said the container-on-barge effort for domestic shipments is just getting under way, but that the new report from the Maritime Administration is "a roadmap to the future." That document shows "how marine highways fit within our larger system for moving goods," he said.
It also has a section listing problems the industry faces in overcoming shipper reluctance, and ideas for breaking down economic barriers to make it more competitive.
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