As mentioned in Talk of the Dock’s previous post, Developing US Waterways as Highways, national waterways are being put to use as a marine highway network to haul freight. Now, the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration approved 11 new ship designs that will be appropriate for this type of cargo shipping. The vessels are standardized, efficient to build, and good for carrying smaller loads.
The new designs are part of DOT’s plan to move freight from roadways to waterways. Eighteen underused shipping channels will be designated as marine highways and reserved for vessels that transport cargo within North America, taking heavy loads and hazardous materials off crowded highways.
DOT has committed $215 million in funding. Moving freight from roads to waterways is already common in Europe in what is called short-sea shipping. In the U.S. eighteen existing channels would be used as marine highways and one has already opened in the northeast between Boston, Maine and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The DOT has approved six roll-on, roll-off freighters, three roll-on container ships and two small container ships to be built in the US and dispatched along this marine network.
A roll-on, roll-off freighter (RoRo) is a small boat that pulls directly up to a dock and puts down ramps so trucks can drive freight off instead of the port investing in cranes and other expensive infrastructure. Ro-Cons are hybrid ships between a RoRo and a traditional container ship. DOT has approved three Ro-Cons in addition to two traditional container ships.
It seems like the plan is in motion. This move should not only alleviate congestion on America’s highways, it should help protect them from excessive wear by heavy trucks. We’ll follow the story as it develops.