WERC to meet in nation’s largest inland port city

When the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) convenes for its annual conference in Chicago next week, they’ll be visiting the nation’s largest inland port.

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When the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) convenes for its annual conference in Chicago next week, they’ll be visiting the nation’s largest inland port.

While most shippers think of major ocean cargo gateways as being the principal means for moving containers, it’s important to note that the U.S. is served by more than 360 commercial ports, providing approximately 3,200 cargo facilities.

Within this context, Chicago remains the largest inland general cargo port in America, and the city as a whole is the commercial transportation hub of the nation. It sits in the center of the Midwest industrial base and the agricultural heart of America.

“I believe the port is a valuable asset, and with strategic investment it can drive economic growth in our city,” says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The port moves more cargo than any other Great Lakes gateway, most frequently steel, grain, scrap metals and stone.”

The Seaway and the Great Lakes meet the Illinois and inland waterway system at Chicago. It’s the beginning and the end of barge traffic between the Seaway, inland points, and the Gulf of Mexico through the Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and the Arkansas Rivers. Eastern railroads terminate in Chicago, and rail lines west, north, and south start here.

Still, industry analysts maintain that more money has to be directed toward infrastructure to make the port sustainable. Last year, the Denver-based Broe Group and its transportation affiliate OmniTrax, tried to complete a privatization deal that might have achieved this goal. Although that deal failed to come to fruition, analysts say similar ventures may develop this year.

Principal national interstate highways pass through the Chicago area and radiate outward from the Midwest’s major city. Trucking companies maintain central terminals and intermodal transshipping facilities in Chicago, with highway carriers fanning out in all directions from this dynamic industrial, commercial, and agricultural center.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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Article Topics

Intermodal · Seaports · Shipping · All Topics
Hub Group Resources
Not Your Grandfather's Intermodal
Transportation of freight in containers was first recorded around 1780 to move coal along England’s Bridgewater Canal. However, "modern" intermodal rail service by a major U.S. railroad only dates back to 1936. Malcom McLean’s Sea-Land Service significantly advanced intermodalism, showing how freight could be loaded into a “container” and moved by two or more modes economically and conveniently. As with all new technologies, there were problems that slowed the growth, which influenced many potential customers to shy away from moving intermodal.
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