Thursday, April 11, 2013

AAR: Railroads eye future Panama Canal traffic

Written by 

Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger on Wednesday told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that freight railroads are positioning themselves to meet future transportation demands in this country, including those related directly and indirectly to the expansion of the Panama Canal.

The expansion project is designed to double shipping capacity via the Canal by 2015, and facilitate larger "post-Panamax" container ships to pass, overcoming current size constraints.

Said Hamberger, "The fact is, whether the freight is coming into or leaving from Long Beach or Savannah or Miami or Houston or Seattle or Norfolk or any other major port, our nation's freight railroads are in a good position now, and are working diligently to be in an even better position in the future, to offer the safe, efficient, cost-effective service that their customers at ports and elsewhere want and need."

Hamberger said rail intermodal shipments are growing thanks to major private capital investments railroads have been making in equipment and facilities to improve efficiency, reliability, and productivity for intermodal rail customers. The rail industry has seen a rise in intermodal volume from 3.1 million containers and trailers in 1980 to 12.3 million units in 2012.

Despite the negative effects of the Great Recession, America's freight railroads have been reinvesting more than ever before, Hamberger said. These private investments include $25.5 billion in 2012 and roughly the same amount is projected for 2013.

"Intermodal-specific investments are a part of the $525 billion in investments freight railroads have made since 1980 – paid for with the railroads' own funds, not government funds – on locomotives, freight cars, tracks, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure and equipment," said Hamberger. "Intermodal is a key market segment for each of the major U.S. freight railroads, and each has devoted significant resources toward expanding their intermodal capabilities to keep supply chains fluid and effective."

Hamberger noted that many analysts project the demand for freight transportation will grow, both for intermodal trade and domestic resources, due to population and economic growth. This further supports the need for investments in rail intermodal and rail carload capacity.

"Railroads are the best way to meet this demand," Hamberger said. "Railroads are safe, save fuel, keep trucks off the overcrowded highways, and reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions. And they do it while providing affordable, reliable transportation to America's manufactures, farmers, energy producer, retailers, and consumers."