Rolling on the River

Anyone crossing or driving along the Tennessee or the Mississippi Rivers sees barge traffic–long strings of low boats pushed by a multi-story tug. As Americans reel from gasoline that costs more than four dollars per gallon, it’s interesting to look at the impact of the most efficient method of shipping.

Memphis Business Quarterly’s summer issue contains an insert, not available on the Web, with some interesting facts about the Port of Memphis and its barge traffic. Consider:

  • The Port of Memphis leads the nation in inland systems handling foreign import tonnage.
  • The Mississippi River handled 678 million tons of freight in 2005.
  • In 2006, 19.1 million tons of freight passed through the Port of Memphis.
  • The Port averages about 3,000 rail car movements per month
  • The Port has an annual economic impact of $6.7 billion on Memphis and the surrounding area.
  • Some 5,500 jobs are generated directly by the Port, with 9,900 jobs indirectly generated.

The top commodities moving through the Port are:

  • Petroleum–37 percent
  • Coal–17 percent
  • Food and farm products–17 percent.  Top foods are wheat, corn, and rice.
  • Crude materials–(Penthouse magazines?) 15 percent
  • Manufactured goods–9 percent

While it’s hard to get your head around figures such as million tons of freight, it’s obvious that it would take millions of gallons of fuel to move all that stuff by truck. The Port of Memphis contains Tennessee’s only refinery, which makes jet fuel that is piped directly to the Memphis International Airport.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

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