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New St. Louis port bringing container ships up the Mississippi will revolutionize Midwest shipping, officials say

A private development team unveiled plans to build a cargo terminal on more than 300 acres of land along the Mississippi in Herculaneum

ST. LOUIS — The economic impact of a proposal to build a new Mississippi River port and cargo terminal for container ships in the St. Louis region has not yet been formally studied, but officials behind the effort believe container ships could revolutionize how Midwest companies ship products, leading to a burst of economic activity.

A private development team, consisting of a partnership of four companies, unveiled a plan Friday to build a cargo terminal on more than 300 acres of land along the Mississippi in Herculaneum, Missouri, 30 miles south of downtown St. Louis. The cost of the port, to be built at the existing Riverview Commerce Park, has not yet been determined because it's in such early stages, officials said. Companies backing the port are Florida-based American Patriot Container Transport LLC, Texas-based Hawtex Development Corp., Maryland Heights-based developer Fred Weber Inc. and The Doe Run Co., a St. Louis metals company.

When the port opens, currently projected for the fourth quarter of 2024, St. Louis would serve as the northernmost hub on a new shipping route up the Mississippi River that would bring container shipping to the Midwest and alleviate strains on the supply chain. Companies manufacturing goods nearby would have an easier way to ship massive loads overseas on custom-engineered container ships with a carbon-friendly footprint that should be attractive in the future to shippers, the developer and local economic officials said.

“We’re introducing a whole new concept of southbound containerized cargo which creates a new option for shippers, in a world that needs a new option. Because if you look at the next 10 years, the growth demand is spectacular. And if we have problems today, we need something new,” Sal Litrico, CEO of American Patriot Container Transport, which is developing the new river-bound container vessel, told the Business Journal Friday. 

In the current market, companies that ship products overseas with containers typically use trucks or rail cars to take products to the coasts, where it is loaded onto the ships. Products can be shipped in and out of the Mississippi by barge, but adding container ships opens the opportunity to bypass coastal ports and directly import and export goods overseas through the Gulf of Mexico and the Panama Canal.

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