Monday, June 14, 1999

River freight traffic still growing

Generating plants fuel coal shipping

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More and more pleasure boats may be navigating the Ohio River, but freight traffic remains the bread-and-butter industry there.

        Business for the tow boats pushing barges up and down the Ohio between 1988 to 1997 jumped by about 25 percent to 241.3 million tons, federal records show. The most popular commodity: coal and coke, which combined, amounted to more than half of the freight moving on the river.

        The jump from about 193 million tons to more than 241 million tons in 1997, the most recent data available, is “pretty significant,” said Cathy Schuchter, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

        The demand for electricity is fueling that growth, said Mark Hammond, economist of the Corps of Engineers. About 85 percent of the coal transported on the river is used for electricity, and 15 percent is exported, he said.

        A national increase of almost 2 percent in petroleum production also has added to the barge traffic on the Ohio. In 1997, 12.9 million tons of petroleum was moved on the river.

        In January, Ashland Inc. in Covington joined with Marathon Oil Co. in Houston to create Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC. That joint venture increased fleet traffic on the Ohio River by an estimated 9 percent compared with 1997.

        Ashland previously had three re fineries. The joint venture now has seven.

        Marathon Ashland employees are aware of the rise in river activity such as gaming boats, restaurants on the waterfronts and other pleasure crafts, spokesman Chuck Rice said.

        “As a result of increased traffic, MAP marine employees take extra safety precautions when navigating the river near populated areas,” he said. “Among them, pilots have upped communication efforts on the river including relaying information via radio to other boats about conditions in populated areas.”

        Marathon Ashland also sends all of its captains and pilots to Seamen's Church Institute in Paducah, Ky., for training on navigating populated areas.


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