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July 15, 2019 2:15 PM, EDT

Stakeholders Outline Arkansas Intermodal Project

Arkansas River Arkansas River by iStock

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Barges carrying shipping containers on the Arkansas River from as far as Asia and Europe is the goal of a company associated with an intermodal port that the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority is attempting to develop near Van Buren, Ark.

The Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority Board, as well as many others, received an update on the intermodal project last week at the Ben Geren Park Safe Room in Fort Smith.

In the meeting, WAIA Executive Director Mat Pitsch introduced Sal Litrico, CEO of American Patriot Holdings. John Vickerman of Vickerman & Associates, a Virginia-based consulting firm, put WAIA in touch with American Patriot Holdings and Litrico has been active in the area to set up “containerized freight” on the Arkansas River. A memorandum of understanding was signed Jan. 28 among the WAIA, American Patriot Holdings, and Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal District, a subdivision of the state of Louisiana.

“On behalf of the Port of Plaquemines, American Patriot Holdings, and our strategic sister partners throughout the Midwest, I appreciate the opportunity to share our story today,” Litrico said. “We’ve been working on this for four years. … Our story of what we’re putting out on the table is that we’re offering a new transportation alternative. It’s not just a new container on vessel. It’s a whole new system.”

This new system includes, Litrico said, a gateway terminal in Plaquemines, La., a strategically located upriver port network and an innovative/patented container-on-vessel design. It would also provide significant competitive cost advantages.

“So what is Midwest Logistics Alternative?” Litrico asked. “What does it really mean? It’s connecting the all-water route to Western Arkansas Intermodal to other strategic Midwest ports, to the lower Mississippi River, and ultimately to Asia, Europe and other foreign ports without compromising frequency, and enhancing reliability.”

Litrico said American Patriot Holdings has more than 130 years of maritime experience. It has done numerous presentations throughout the Midwest.

Litrico went into detail about the main facets of this new transportation alternative. Among these, in addition to the features mentioned previously, were American Patriot Holdings’ strategic partners. These include WAIA; the St. Louis region; Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis; Cairo, Ill.; Little Rock, Ark.; Jefferson City, Mo., and Joliet, Ill.

The next step for American Patriot Holdings, Litrico said, is to be in marine operations by September 2021. However, much has to happen to make this work. One of these things is to finalize a memorandum of understanding with WAIA and a terminal operator by the fourth quarter of 2019. The company is waiting on a proposal from a terminal operator. Another goal is to finalize memorandums of understanding with some high-profile beneficial cargo owners in western Arkansas by Aug. 15.

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