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Transportation options put port in driver's seat

June 25, 2011 at 1:25 a.m.

A tugboat slowly maneuvers an empty barge to port by the barge canal at the Port of Victoria. The port offers the three primary modes for moving large amounts of cargo,  which is an asset for  attracting future business.

HOW PORT IMPROVEDDuring the last four years, the port invested about $6 million in infrastructure improvements. It:

Repaired its railroad lift bridge.

Built an 800-foot liquid dock, which helps companies transfer liquid cargo.

Extended the rail to an existing customer and installed a runaround track to hold about 75 railcars.

The key word when discussing intermodal transportation is options.

In terms of transportation, intermodal describes an area with multiple options for importing and exporting goods. The Port of Victoria, which accommodates rail, barge and trucks, is one example.

With that in mind, which mode of transportation do companies use when receiving or shipping certain goods, and what are the benefits of each option?

That the Port of Victoria offers the three primary modes for moving large amounts of cargo bodes well for attracting future business.

Companies, especially those in the manufacturing and oil and gas industries, need shipping alternatives.

"All three forms of transportation are critical to our business," Amy Hodges, Invista's Texas spokeswoman, said.

Invista produces chemicals used in the making of nylon fiber and specialty products. The Victoria company transports raw materials - in various forms of liquids and bulk solids - via all options offered at the Port of Victoria.

Invista considers factors such as the location of the destination, cost, customer needs, speed of delivery and safety when determining how to move materials. Other companies similarly filter such decisions.

Companies that extract oil from the Eagle Ford shale, for example, can truck the resource to the port and then transport it elsewhere via railcars and barge.

Depending on the shipment's distance, trucks can provide a quick transportation option. But fuel costs are steep and highways present traffic and other dangers.

If a Victoria company must transport a load to the West Coast - and that load is larger than one truck can move - the port's rail connection might be used.

The safest, most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly transportation method, however, is by barge. Barges can move massive amounts of materials affordably and without the dangers of highway traffic and pollution.

Barges shipping from Victoria, however, are slower than other transportation methods. They also prove futile when moving cargo to the West Coast, for example, or to the country's interior.

Robert Loeb, chairman of the Victoria County Navigation District, said infrastructure improvements at the port laid the groundwork for the increased commerce flow.

"The exciting thing is with increased business out here, we're able to add infrastructure that will bring in even more business," Loeb said.

Sen. Glenn Hegar, a Katy Republican, said via email that several companies - including suppliers to Caterpillar - might locate here because of these transportation options.

"The port's intermodal capabilities gives future businesses flexibility in an economy that's ever-changing," Adrian Cannady, the Victoria Economic Development Corp's vice president of marketing, said. "Companies are scrutinizing communities at a much higher level than ever before. The port helps us market the community."

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