Truck Cargo Not Shifting to Barges, Despite I-5 Bridge Delays

By Steve Wilhelm, May 28, 2013, Puget Sound Business Journal

Trucking companies moving freight along the I-5 corridor are making do with delays caused by the collapse of a freeway bridge near Mount Vernon, rather than finding alternative cargo modes such as barges.

The reason is simple, said Washington Trucking Association Vice President Jim Tutton: Staying on the road is quicker.

Otherwise, the cargo would have to be moved from one mode to another, a task known as transshipment.

“The transshipment part is time-consuming,” Tutton said. “A barge trip is obviously slower.”

So, he said, truckers are utilizing the traffic detours that have been set up, and are enduring delays of 30 minutes to 75 minutes, depending on the time of day.

Foss Maritime was exploring whether it could help with barges, but nothing had jelled, Foss publicist Megan Aukema said in an email.

“Foss is speaking with their customers about their market needs, but nothing yet to report,” she wrote Friday, adding that container carriers “ultimately will decide whether truck delays are worth it or not.”

Several freight handlers in the Seattle area said most of the cargo they handle arrives over the docks at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, and little of it comes down from Canada.

For instance, Northwest Container Services handles a very variable 10 to 50 containers a week from Vancouver, said Art Scheunemann, senior vice president.

“Cargo coming into Vancouver will have to tough it out with the available routes,” he said. “My guess is that what’s going to flow is going to flow. It will take alternative routes and factor in time constraints.”

Last year, $13.5 million in northbound exports, and $6 million in southbound imports, moved on the I-5 corridor, according to figures from the Whatcom Council of Governments.

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