Port of Harlingen approved as Marine Highway Project

Designation allows right to move cargo containers on barges, access to federal grant funding

HARLINGEN — The Port of Harlingen has won approval as a Marine Highway Project Designation, opening a pathway for expansion of the port’s scope.

The port is one of 46 projects receiving the federal designation after applying last year.

The new designation, known as MARAD, means ports can seek federal grant funding and receive preferential support for new services, or the expansion of existing Marine Highway services, port officials said.

“This is exciting to be included in the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Program,” Port of Harlingen board chair Alan Johnson said. “This designation allows us access to funding to establish this service and expand the capabilities at our port that open up many new opportunities not only for us, but for Harlingen and the region to bring in industry looking for container-on-barge transport.”

Marine Highway Projects are chosen for their importance to local economies, travel times and public safety. The designation means the Port of Harlingen can now offer container-on-barge services.

Container-on-barge is a method of freight transport where goods are moved in containers stacked on barges and towed to a destination on an inland waterway, similar to what is often seen with semi-trailers or cargo containers atop railroad cars.

The concept moves cargo more efficiently. According to the National Waterways Foundation, one 15-barge tow is equivalent to 216 rail cars, or six locomotives, or 1,050 large semi-tractor trailers.