Kentucky Riverport Improvement

Project Summary

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requested assistance in providing policy guidance and an action plan for the Commonwealth of Kentucky to help make their riverports more competitive. Hanson conducted an assessment and prepared a strategic plan, which included a statewide riverport improvement plan, marketing plan and recommendations for state initiatives. Specific tasks included conducting waterway research; identifying manufacturing facilities that assist in sufficient waterborne transportation; prioritizing public port infrastructure needs; and identifying state-level organizational needs and state legislation to support multi-modal transportation. The project deliverable was a formal report.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky lies in the heart of the nation, at the hub of the nation’s inland waterways. Its location, positioned to benefit from the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, offers advantages to year-round freight transportation of bulk materials, agricultural products, chemicals, minerals, metals, wood, manufactured goods and containerized freight. Kentucky has more than 1,090 miles of navigable inland waterways, and the waterways link between the Great Lakes, Canada, Mexico and the deep-draft ports of New Orleans and Mobile for overseas shipments.

Hanson collected historical data on the use of Kentucky’s waterways, citing the important role of these waterways since the mid-1700s and the evolution of the waterway system today. We also assembled information on the 11 waterway ports in the state of Kentucky. Seven of the ports are operating ports, and four are in development.

Each individual port description included the port’s history and a brief description; information regarding the site, facilities and equipment on-site; an adequacy recommendation that analyzes the amount and types of equipment versus the amount of barge cargo handled; services offered; and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) for the port.

Hanson also obtained information from each port authority on their particular goals. Each port also had the opportunity to describe several capital expenditure needs. Hanson reviewed information from 20 states to learn more about the level of support that other states dedicate to waterway transportation.

We summarized our findings into the following categories: governance; state ownership and control; financial assistance; technical assistance; and marketing assistance.  Additionally, we recommended three categories of specific support: financial, marketing and technical.

In the financial category, port representatives felt the surrounding states have more opportunities to obtain financial assistance through loans or grants. In the marketing category, port officials viewed Web site promotion, marketing area industrial parks to increase industry, and actively marketing the acreage availability at public riverports as the top three immediate opportunities for the state. In the technical category, port representatives identified the need for a representative at the commonwealth level to represent their interests.

Hanson addressed the concerns from port representatives in the formal report. Detailed suggestions were provided, including immediate action and near term recommendations that would address concerns from ports within the state.

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