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Inland River, Ports & Terminals, Inc.: A Dynamic Force for Economic Growth

The inland waterway systems across the U.S. play a valuable role in generating exports and delivering them as imports across the country via the river system. Therefore, the inland waterways help to develop the economy of America, with 502 million tons of freight worth more than $134.1 billion moving throughout the river systems every year. With a large part of the nation’s economy resting on its waters, the Inland, River, Ports and Terminals  (IRPT) works to maintain the economic prosperity of the inland waterways, whilst working to be a force for dynamic growth in America.  

Based in the state of Missouri, IRPT is a non-profit trade association working for the benefit and development of the nation’s inland waterways, ports and terminals. IRPT was charted as a non-profit corporation in 1974 under the laws of Missouri, and so is only a fairly young company compared to the historical role of the waterways systems across the U.S. However, despite its young age, the Association works across the U.S., marine transportation system (MTS) which comprises approximately 12,000 commercially navigable miles of both inland and intra-coastal waterways. Transportation along these waterways is achieved through the use of locks and damns which allow the water levels to be regulated by IRPT to keep vessels moving and cargo reaching its intended markets with reliable speed, safety and efficiency.  

A key sector which relies on the inland rivers, ports and terminals is the agriculture sector, which utilises the waterways system to transport its products to and from states spanning the water system. These products can then be transported through the Inland Marine Highways to serve both domestic and international exporting channels. Consequently, the U.S. economy relies on the agricultural sector and its use of inland waterways systems to continue to remain competitive in the global export marketplace. Therefore, in such a vital industry as agriculture, IRPT’s passion for growing the economy through the development of the country’s inland ports is crucial. The association’s passion for building economic growth brings together the multi and intermodal transport links throughout the waterways through the river, rail and road network, which subsequently continues to contribute towards the U.S.’s international export market.  

Under IRPT are over 300 members ranging from port professionals to terminal operators, shippers, carriers, firms suppliers and other associations. These members work with IRPT to enhance the waterways systems that span across the nation’s river basins. Members from IRPT span the Missouri River Basin, Great Lakes Basin, Arkansas-White-Red Ouachita River Basin, Pacific Rivers Basin, Upper Mississippi Basin, Ohio River Basin, and Illinois Basin. These basins and subsequent river systems are what divide up the members of the association, as they work to enhance the industry across each region. IRPT encourages cooperation between these members and those who use the waterways for essential cargo transportation. By establishing a strong relationship between these key stakeholders, IRPT’s members cohesively support the development and reputation of the system as key facilitators for the nation’s economy.  

However, IRPT’s network does not just end with those who manage and facilitate the operations across the inland waterways of the United States. Instead, IRPT also meets with and collaborates with governmental agencies to develop the local and national economies of each state along the waterways, whilst enhancing the overall reputation of the country’s vital transportation system. By working with the government, and other stakeholders within the maritime and transportation industry, IRPT provides the essential network for its members to thrive, whilst encouraging both private and public investment to enhance the system which plays such a vital role in the nation’s economy.  

Over the last few years, IRPT has been working on a range of initiatives which continued its mission to be a resource of vital change to the inland river, ports and harbours systems. These initiatives are working to bring vital education, funding and personal development to the region. These aim to educate the general public on the industry, develop those within the industry with the latest expertise and establish a solid foundation for the industry’s future.  

With the backing of IRPT, the waterways industry and the Association’s members are continuing to see great economic benefits from the waterways’ reliable and efficient management. This was highlighted in February with the Ports of Indiana which are a member of IRPT seeing 12.6 million tons of cargo travelling through its ports every year. This is the second-highest total tonnage in 63 years, second only to the 14.8 million tons that travelled through its ports in 2018. The prominent role Inidana’s ports play in developing the inland waterways as well as Indiana’s industry, highlights what a valuable role the members of IRPT play in developing the industry across the country.  

Indiana also plays a key role in the agriculture industry, with its fertilizer handling seeing an 11% increase last year, alongside the increase in demand for its soy products, minerals, ethanol, DDGs and cement. Therefore, the Ports of Indiana is just one example of a member of IRPT which has seen a vast increase in product demand, particularly in the agriculture field, which utilises the inland waterways, ports and harbours across the country to deliver significant economic benefits for Indiana year on year.  

Overall, IRPT continues to promote the healthy growth, operations and development of the inland river ports, terminals and harbours which are serving the U.S. every single day. The waterway plays such a vital role in advancing the American economy, across a variety of industries and sectors. Every single member under IRPT plays a vital role in achieving the success of the waterways, and alongside the rail and road links, each one is steadily establishing the inland waterway network as one of the most vital assets to domestic shipping for the country.  

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