Short sea shipping in the US?


Does Norfolk Tug still do the container run from Norfolk to Richmond? Isn’t that subsidized by the govt or something like that??


Yes and yes.


[QUOTE=KrustySalt;184758]Longshoremen are the reason we don’t have short sea shipping. Lazy, overpaid Longshoremen. Don’t believe me? Do a little research.[/QUOTE]

I remember the stink back in what, 83 or 84 when Crowley bought Delta and used the Teamsters to work some of the ships in Lake Charles, at the TMT docks. Security was heightened.



There be plenty of rail and truck capacity in the US to serve the need at present. What you are showing is a few pallets being dropped off at Alesund by the Hurtigruten, something I have witnessed, albeit at 2 am when that damned thing rocked up making a lot of noise that didn’t go away until the boat did - which was by 3 am.

The bottom line in the US is that LCL freight byroad or rail is more available and lots cheaper here, so there is little incentive to develop coastwise shipping of palletized cargo outside Alaska, a place bearing a striking resemblance to good ole Norge. As for containerized volume, up and down the US East Coast might provide the volume, and perhaps up and down the West Coast but the road time is just 20 hrs from FL to NYC so it goes by road. West East, in volume - by train with interchanges possible at numerous rail hubs.

For a real good basic intro to US transport look at this link:

Back in the 90’s I had a chance to spend some time with Gene Pentimonti, nominally the inventor of the double stack rail car system. He patiently explained it all, and I’m glad to see he is still at it.

His goal at the time, Just in Time Delivery by ship and rail, +/- 30 minutes, Hong Kong to anywhere in USA.

A very pleasant person and obviously a sharp fellow.


There are lots of roads and railways from coastal cities like Rotterdam to inland Europe, yet a lot containers and commodities are shipped on self-propelled inland vessels like this:

Or Petroleum products on this type:

Shell is building 15 more:

There are also suitable Short Sea Container Feeders available. Suitale for the East or West coast trade?:


Marinelink had an article on the “rebirth” of the Erie Canal in New York State in 2014, primarily talking about the section which runs from Troy, NY on the Hudson River through Oswego, NY on the Eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Seems like the topic of short-sea on the Erie, Oswego and Champlain Canals as well as the Great Lakes comes up every time fuel prices are high, but then disappear once FSC rates drop.


[QUOTE=ombugge;184957]There are lots of roads and railways from coastal cities like Rotterdam to inland Europe, yet a lot containers and commodities are shipped on self-propelled inland vessels like this:

Or Petroleum products on this type:

Shell is building 15 more:

There are also suitable Short Sea Container Feeders available. Suitale for the East or West coast trade?:[/QUOTE]

Yes - we understand and have seen all that - from Rotterdam to Basel …

We in the USA have an inland waterway system that probably (I’m not sure) exceeds Europe’s at least in tonnage of cargo shipped. A few poxy inland container boats headed up the Rhine is nothing tonnage-wise compared to a 27 barge tow made up and heading down the Mississippi at Algiers Bend, with another lining up right behind … This is skill and expertise at a level seen only a few places in the world. Wow. Just remember we use the inland towboat and barge system here v. the small inland or short sea boats ships in Europe, and adding up the capacity, we probably smoke all Europe combined. Not bragging - it is just we use a LOT of barges for dry and wet bulk moves already.

As for rail, sure our passenger trains are in the toilet compared to Europe, but our main line freight rail network moves a tonnage Europe can only dream about - containers and bulk.

The bottom line is that US transport needs are currently met (cheaply) with the mix of road / rail / inland barge / coastwise barge that we already use. Fuel costs, road use taxes and tolls are very, very low compared to Europe, our rail systems serve high volume shippers efficiently, and with a credit card and a phone call I can have a truck pull up to load a single pallet for shipment from Maine to California and it gets there in 5 days … 4 days … if I catch the timing right.

Now my sentiments are entirely with you.

But since what really gets done is all about time and the dollar bill, I think it would be pushing a rope to sell water transport where road and rail are doing it efficiently day in and day out already

There’s my opinion, since you asked for it, and it’s based on real life experience.

And what’s this in the [I]Sunnmorsposten[/I] about Olympic getting a six month charter in the GoM?


In the northeast, what’s the longest distance between oil terminals in moderately populated areas…50 miles max? Don’t see how it’s not transported by water. Less than it used to be 40 years ago but still thriving with ports farther apart. Mostly that consolidation is just due to larger vessels.


An argument for Short Sea Shipping is to reduce pollution and global warming by moving transport from road to sea:
Whether this argument will carry any weight in the US discussion is probably doubtful now.

A fleet of short sea vessels going under the hammer. Any interest?:


Halifax is aiming at attracting the “Ultra-large” Container ships to their deepwater port and modern Container Terminals:

Will this open up an opportunity for Short sea shipping in Canadian and US East Coast?

Scenario: Ultra-large Container ships (15-22000 TEU) originating from NW Europe and the Far East via Suez (or Cape?) make a one-stop call at Halifax, from where Container Feeder Vessels (1-5000 TEU)distribute to ports in Canada’s Atlantic coast, Great Lakes and US North East, or beyond.

Same scenario can be envisaged from a hub port in the Bahamas, or on Cuba, serving ships both from across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal and distributing to US East Coast and Gulf Ports, inland ports along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and Caribbean ports.

With the present development of larger and larger “main line” ships something like this will probably force itself on the market, since there are few deepwater ports with possibilities to serve those ships in the area.


ILA contract has provisions for smaller gangs working barges and ships under 500 Teu. Labor rate is not cheap hourly but production is very good, cost of load discharge not a major issue. To date on the East Coast it’s been more effective for imported foreign containers to discharge as the vessel works up or down the coast. East 9 or 10 ports are receiving containers today. Larger ships three or four ports able to accept the vessel it’s going to change. Question is who pays for the transship how it’s carried and how much it will cost. American export cargo not a factor rates are so low it has go from ports were empty import containers are available. If the waste paper scrap metal or DDG is not near a major port or inland rail ramp it won’t be sold to China

Rates vessel is earning today you can bet the foreign ship is not going to pay to serve small ports. Problem with water transport for consumer goods is the alternate port is rarely the ultimate destination. Inland is were the cargo is going and it’s better to move direct from a main port via rail or if shorter distance truck than up or down the coast then move inland. The feeders we see today are either charging market rates, the Norfolk Baltimore barge is a bit cheaper than truck, or subsidized, the Norfolk Richmond barge. Even New York-Boston most cargo can pay a few hundred dollars more and move to inland New England via New York cheaper than New York Boston then inland.

There will be exceptions South Florida one, and some cargo will move via barge coastwise, but larger ships will mean a few ports win most loose. Big container ships are not a good thing for the American Maritime Industry. Winners will be big box stores and a few surviving foreign ship owners.



This is happening via Freeport Bahamas. However two or three US east coast ports are ready for the 14000+ and they already call US West coast. Feeder size anymore seems to be 965 X 106-131. Feeder service will never extend into the lakes as there is too much competition from rail, the caveat there is if rail were to suddenly reach capacity hauling petroleum products out of the Dakotas then maybe there would be a seasonal service.

BTW Boats, thanks for the post! It was very insightful.


Asia cargo, Discharge Pacific side Rail across Panama re load for the US, Trannship in Jamaica or Freeport have been methods to carry the volume with vessels too large to transit in most cases.

Thing to remember about liner shipping, consumer goods, is the market drives the vessel. Some ports have a local market large enough to justify the port call. New York for example. Others it’s almost all through cargo. Savannah the largest SE port volume wise has little local delivery, majority of the cargo moves inland. Between Norfolk and Savannah most of the SE US and a large part of the central states can be served . Little demand to serve Wilmington Charleston or Jacksonville with coastal feeders when you can reach the market via rail and truck, limiting port calls.

You can serve Miami and Jacksonville via water feeder from Savannah but the South Florida market itself can justify a direct call, port is deep, big ship ready, deviation Panamana en route to Savannah is not large might as well call direct with one sting. If the carrier is smart they can get a small premium on the ocean rate. Seems to me any southern feeder,operation has to link the islands or even the gulf somehow to make it pay. Boston for Asia carriers, added time on the round voyage Boston then south back to Panama after New York is substantial, which adds to the expense. Boston has had feeders before may work again, if the cargo will pay freight over New York rates.

Much as I would like to see it not buying any stock in coastwise container carriers



There is an active market for this in Alaska, I’m not sure where else in the U.S. it would be cost effective.


Has any of the Maersk line Triple E’s (18,000 TEUs) called at any North American port yet?

Are there any US port (East or West) able to handle the latest Mega Ships, i.e. 18-22,000 TEUs?


How Norwegians view American ports…


[QUOTE=Fraqrat;192871]How Norwegians view American ports…


Well, at least one. . . .


Not that modern, this is more like it:


Norfolk is ready with 14 Super Post Panamax Container cranes at N.I.T. (6 north / 8 south) Virginia International Gateway VIG in Portsmouth has 8 Super Post Panamax Container cranes. Channel depths are 50’. (They take out 55’ bulkers on a rising tide all the time!)


Opportunities for short sea container shipping in the US and Canada may be opening up according to this article: