Barges expected to begin transporting cargo on the James River next year

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For five years, T. Parker Host Inc. has been proposing a plan to ship cargo by barge between Norfolk and Richmond. Now people finally are paying attention, thanks to rapidly rising fuel prices and increasing truck congestion on Interstate 64 and U.S. 460.

In April, the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission approved $2.3 million over three years to help the Norfolk-based ship agency start the James River Barge Line. It will move cargo containers from Norfolk ports to distribution centers in Richmond. If the proposal is approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in June, T. Parker Host will begin making a weekly barge run with nontimely and overweight cargo early next year. Additional trips will be scheduled as demand dictates.

“I’d say that I now have wheels on my barges,” says David F. Host, president of T. Parker Host. “Before, this was all kind of theory, but now it’s an action plan. Now I can talk seriously with potential customers about how this is going to work.”

A barge trip will take 15 hours to reach Richmond, but Host says barges will be able to compete effectively with trucks because of Norfolk weekend port operations. A large number of ships arrive between Thursday night and Sunday to avoid high weekend labor rates at New York City ports. “If a ship comes in on Friday, chances are those containers aren’t going to be in Richmond until Monday, anyway,” Host explains. “We can have that same box in Richmond on Monday as well.”

Barge transport also will allow log producers to fill containers to capacity, something they can’t do with trucks because of highway weight limits, he says. The service is also expected to encourage the creation of additional distribution centers in Richmond and will help ease traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

Host expects a number of major Virginia manufacturers to use the service, including Philip Morris USA, DuPont and Honeywell International. 


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