Chicago’s Port Plays Vital Role in Supply Chain Management
April 21, 2014 - SCMR Editorial
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.
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