Cargo Export Options Expand in The Midwest

Posted: Updated:

Moving freight to and from Midwest can be a challenge with major ports thousands of miles away. There is hope. Between the Panama Canal widening project completed in June 2016 and the success (and imminent expansion) of the Indianapolis Rail Ramp, more cost effective and time efficient import options are available for Midwest cargo importers with proper supply chain planning.

The expanded Panama Canal opened in June of 2016. It took ten years and $5.5 billion to double the canal’s capacity by adding a new set of locks to accommodate larger container ships. This has allowed ships more than 2.5 times the size of the current limit to pass through the waterway.

These larger ships mean increased capacity that profoundly affects the international transportation industry. Cost to move cargo from Asia to U.S. East Coast (USEC) ports could make a significant drop. The economics are this: More capacity equals more goods that move faster between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, thus, decreasing transport costs.

When managing a supply chain, cost is typically top of mind. We have seen an ongoing drop in Asia to USEC ports shipping rates since the beginning of 2016. These low rates are a boon for importers searching for savings. If importers can plan their production schedules for this longer, but more cost-effective transit of about 14 days’ time, they can make an impactful reduction to their overall freight costs.

Moving cargo through the Panama Canal to a USEC port also means it can be transported efficiently via rail or truck into the Midwest. Rail ramps that could see the biggest change are Louisville, Kentucky, Memphis, Nashville and Indianapolis. Gulf ports also will benefit from the canal’s expansion, as they will take in more vessels from Asia and South America.

Even without the canal open, USEC and U.S. Gulf ports are realizing increased cargo shipments. Several years ago, there were labor issues at West Coast ports. Companies began to figure out how to reroute their cargo shipments around these issues, and it appears this trend has continued., an industry publication, analyzed data from July 2014 to March 2015 showing an increased share of Asian imports to U.S. Gulf and East Coast ports over the nine-month period.

Indianapolis Rail Ramp

In 2013, the Intermodal Indiana Rail Ramp opened for business in downtown Indianapolis. Simply called the Indy Ramp by its partners, it provides access to major Asian ports through Canadian and West Coast ports. Utilizing the Indy Ramp, the business boasts an average 22-day travel time for cargo import shipments. It also touts the easy highway access to major interstates (I-70, I-74, I-65 and the partially completed I-69) from its downtown Indianapolis location.

With the continued increase in traffic into the Indy Ramp since it opened, the Indiana Rail Road announced expansion plans for the spring and summer of 2017. Improvements include:

Lights:  Two 125-foot light towers, with high-efficiency LED lights, are going to be placed at the north and south ends of the loading/unloading pad before the end of summer 2017. This will give ramp operators, the ability to work longer hours to maintain fluidity, which could allow for a second shift to be added soon.

Storage:  The Indiana Rail Road acquired access to a six-acre parcel between the container yard and ramp, which will be ready for storage of empties and chassis by April 1. This will take pressure off the U.S. customs-bonded container yard, allowing it to be used for loads.

Transit/Port Construction: Both Prince Rupert and Vancouver Deltaport have entered the final phases of major expansion projects; construction at both ports is scheduled for completion in July. Prince Rupert’s capacity will increase by nearly two-thirds, to 1.3 million units per year. Deltaport will have on-dock rail to decrease port dwell time and create efficiencies for CN operations out of both harbors.

With all the upgrades at the Indy Ramp it might be a good idea for Indiana importers to consider moving some of their cargo via the Indy Ramp. The Indy Ramp can/has provided a great alternative to the traditional Chicago ramp routing. Truck turn times at the Indianapolis ramp average 16 minutes. These turn times in LA/Long Beach take up to two to four hours. In Chicago, a traditional route for Midwestern companies, it could be up to two hours. Many deliveries can be made the same day as the container becomes available via the Indy Ramp.

Simply said, if a company located in Central, Southeastern and Southwestern Indiana wants to be more in control knowing when and where your cargo will arrive, the Indy Ramp is a great option.

Andy Hadley is a development professional at Cargo Services.

  • Perspectives

    • How to Build an Effective Team

      Many leaders who are looking to increase overall productivity at their company are implementing collaborative team environments. This growing trend is backed up by a recent study that states collaborative work environments lead to an increase in overall profitability. However, teams are only effective if built correctly. Don’t expect a group of employees to work well together if you throw them in a room without cultivating any sort of trust or team building.



Company Name:
Confirm Email:
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections


  • Most Popular Stories

    • Eleven Fifty to Move Headquarters

      Eleven Fifty Academy has announced plans to relocate. The nonprofit coding academy says it will invest $5 million to move its national headquarters to a 25,000-square-foot space in downtown Indianapolis near the Indiana Statehouse. Eleven Fifty says it will maintain its existing space in Fishers and has additional plans to add more locations statewide in the future. The organization says it aims to bring its staff to more than 150 over the next six years. Founder Scott Jones...

    • (photo courtesy The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      Hammond Pulls 135 Jobs from Illinois

      A Hammond factory recently vacated by Michigan-based Lear Corp. didn’t sit empty for very long. Midland Metal Products has taken over the former seat factory, having relocated from Chicago after 95 years. 

    • ‘Transformation’ Continues in Westfield

      Indiana’s fastest growing city is showing no signs of slowing down.  Mayor Andy Cook says now that Westfield has established itself as a destination for family sports with the Grand Park Sports Campus, the $35 million Grand Junction Plaza will transform the city’s downtown into a destination, a place “where people want to be.”   Cook says the project, more than a decade in the making, is an example of a place making strategy necessary for Midwest...
    • Gateway Park will lead into the downtown district.

      Plans For New Muncie Facility Halted

      Plans for a $75 million project at the former BorgWarner site in Muncie have come to a halt.  Nigel Morrison, director of Waelz Sustainable Products LLP says “a campaign of misinformation tainted the process and ultimately made it impossible for the city council to continue supporting the project.” The project was first announced in January and was slated to create up to 90 new jobs. The announcement follows the opposition of Muncie residents who...

    • Kevin Jowitt

      Noblesville Police Chief Stepping Down

      Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt as announced that he will retire in January. He has served 43 years in law enforcement, the past 10 as chief. The city is one of only nine Indiana agencies that have national and state accreditation and is the only department in the region to have police officers in every school building.