M-10 Highway Meeting in Brownsville Texas

The M-10 Highway meeting, based on the Marine Highway Designation by Marad, organized a meeting in Brownsville to discuss how the region could develop containerizable/trailerable cargoes to utilize the water to alleviate regional truck congestion through encouraging or supporting new services for shippers in the region.  The Marine Highway program (click here for more info including a map of the federally designated Marine Highway Corridors).  (ITTS was invited by MDOT as ITTS assisted in the preparation of the M-10 proposal that was submitted to Marad.)

 

Meeting Agenda and Goals

  • After general introductions (with attendees from three States (Florida, Mississippi and Texas) and port and government staff from across the region, the Lauren Brand presented an overview of the Marine Highway program, discussing why the program exists and its goals
  • Congressman Blake Farenthold joined the group, where he discussed his thoughts on the importance of ports, as well as the future of highway reauthorization.  He stressed that groups who can demonstrate collaboration strengthens any case when being presented to Congressional leaders and staff.  He supports going to a VMT tax, as well as looking at ways to get away from transit subsidies.
  • After the break, the meeting became a group discussion centering along next steps, shipper participation, the linkage to economic development, the role of carriers in supporting these services, and linkages to existing regional barge movements.

Some key things discussed at the meeting:

  • Several stressed that the Panama Canal expansion may not necessary result in bigger ships in the Gulf region right away, but instead in a general growth in shipping in the Gulf region.
  • The group needs to outline some clear objectives, such as a service by a certain point in time, or some other way to clearly demonstrate success within the corridor to encourage additional participation in supporting the M-10 project.  Without a clear focus on one or two services, hard to develop some mechanism to support emerging Marine Highway services.  One suggestion was a weekly service with multiple destinations within the corridor, but what the type of service or rotation was not elaborated.
  • One speaker stated it clearly – we want more, more, more – more cargo, more services, more flexibility.
  • This must be driven by shippers and regional densities: the carriers can not develop these services unless there exist committed cargoes that are willing to move on the corridor.  The Del-Tile representative spoke very highly of the benefits of the Cross Gulf services between Mexico and Florida, not only in managing inventory and costs, but also in avoid border crossing delays.
  • What are the cargoes that are being discussed and can these cargoes develop flows that pay for the carrier’s expenses in both directions and avoid equipment or backhaul issues?
  • Can we link a coastal M-10 with other regional Marine Highway programs (M-49, M-55, M-65).
  • There are some Marad Studies looking at dual use vessels (need to get a copy of this report!).
  • Don’t forget in discussing new services to recognize the existing services and facilities that already exist within the region.
  • Shippers ultimately determine the success or failure of any program, and without demonstrating some clear benefits, there exists no  incentive for them to use any new services.
  • Any linkages must link commercial zones that are tied to production/consumption areas to develop densities.
  • Brownsville does operate an overweight truck corridor through the Border but see need to work with BNSF and UP for regional rail services.
  • Shippers do not necessarily understand the costs that the carrier must address to provide two way traffic.
  • Will probably need to support Container on Barge services with bulk services to provide the necessary cargo with the region.
  • State DOT’s maintenance needs will limit how much money may be available for multimodal products, unless it can be clearly demonstrate that these costs will offset highway maintenance projects.
  • Site development should be encouraged to consider waterways as an alternative mode for shippers.  (probably need some maps of sites and transportation assets within the corridor!)
  • May consider looking at state or local incentives (subsidies or tax changes) to encourage the use of certain waterway systems.
  • Do we need a NAFTA flag for vessels operating within the Gulf?

Next steps

The group is discussing more meetings in the future to discuss ways to encourage waterway services along the M-10 corridor although the next meeting site and related followup activities will be shared with the group later.  There was a mention about reaching out to other carrier and shipping groups to generate additional thoughts on improving maritime opportunities in the Gulf.

Other observations or questions:

  • While the meeting was fairly small, only one shipper attended.  While he was a stronger supporter of Cross Gulf services, the need for other carriers and cargo to develop the densities needed to make these services operate are critical.
  • Some differences exist between understanding Container on Barge or Short Sea Shipping.  The terms are sometimes blended together when discussing services within the Gulf.
  • Does $5-7 fuel change the competitiveness of these services within the M-10 region?
  • Clearly, Brownsville’s future as a port depends upon its ability to tie into the Monterrey Mexico market.  The question is can the region leverage this gateway to facilitate Mexican cargoes to move away from rail or truck movements through Texas when going to other Gulf markets?  When examining the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF), the largest US Mexican gateway movements are Mexico to Midwest and Northeast.  Will changing Southern economic growth, such as in the automotive sector, divert some of those flows to other gateways and could services between Brownsville and other regional ports be developed to support these services?

  • The International Research Conference on Short Sea Shipping 2 – 3 April 2012, Lisbon, Portugal may be an interesting forum to discuss some of the challenges that are being reported in other markets.
  • When you looking at the congestion along I-10 from Louisiana to Jacksonville in 2009, the traffic delays are in Louisiana and Jacksonville, but the I-10 Corridor is relatively congestion free outside of these bottlenecks.

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2 Responses to “M-10 Highway Meeting in Brownsville Texas”

  1. Sonney Jones says:

    Dal-Tile’s experience using cross gulf services was indeed a very positive one. The “ease” of moving materials from northern Mexico across the gulf has been made possible thru the Port of Brownsville’s vision of a heavyweight corridor which sychronizes truck weights between Mexico and the US. While we would welcome sailing cycle improvements, the basic service offerig was on point, and honestly should have been better supported by shippers in the Monterrey area. Since there are so many maquila operations the zone, maybe an all out assault on the US companies represented there is needed as replacement services are offered.

  2. Greg Lovelace says:

    Good summary of the meeting Bruce. Agree that shippers’ participation and buy in is most critical to creating successful Short Sea Shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. Greg