Rivers have always played a key role in transporting America’s goods and connecting its markets. They are the USA’s original highways. And the Mississippi has been the prime example. America’s greatest river and one of the longest in the world, it stretches 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) to pass through 10 states from the north of Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
French settlers and fur trappers once transported their annual harvest along this “Great River”, as native Americans used to call it. The river traffic is still there, of course, but the sheer scale is very different. From the 19th century onwards, barges have been the key mode of transport, changing the landscape of the river and opening possibilities for businesses that rely on it.
A flat-bottomed boat built mainly to transport heavy goods by river and canal, a typical barge carries 1500 tons of cargo. That’s 15 times more than a rail car. So, while an average river tow is 15 barges, the same load would require a train 3 miles long or a line of trucks stretching more than 35 miles! Barges carry grain, coal, metals, chemicals and more. Some sixty percent of US grain exports are shipped via the Mississippi River (source: link).
For Louis Dreyfus Company, the river is a strategic place to be.
LDC’s Mississippi network
Over the decades, LDC has expanded its presence along the Mississippi, with several facilities located between Missouri and Louisiana.
LDC’s assets are located South of the lock and dam system on the River below St Louis, so they are not exposed to lock delays or the worst of the winter temperatures.
To get grain from producer to consumer, LDC loads barges at its river facilities, then takes them down to Port Allen, Louisiana, the Group’s export facility. There, the barge loads are elevated onto ships for export to destinations all around the world.
The Mississippi facilities make the company more responsive to the global demand for grains and oilseeds, which mainly comes from Asia. Today, LDC handles corn, wheat, soybeans and milo along the River.
Let’s start our journey in Cahokia, Illinois, close to St. Louis. This is where we receive and store grain from Upper Midwest producers. The grains arrive by truck or rail. The terminal can receive trains up to 125 railcars long. From there, it can take up to 2 weeks to reach Port Allen terminal, its final destination.
Heading south, we reach the LDC’s truck-to-barge facility at West Memphis, Arkansas, which is part of the Memphis metropolitan area, and is located directly across the Mississippi River from Memphis
Completed in 2016, the terminal is the latest LDC facility to be built on the Mississippi. Its location on the west side of the River half a mile from the bank protects it from flooding.
The location will allow us to bring in rail service in the future. The 20,000 MT river terminal receives, dries, stores, and ships corn, soybeans, and other agricultural products grown in the region.
Further south, the next stops are Rosedale, then Natchez, both in Mississippi state. LDC operates two belt conveyors to the river at these two facilities.
The final leg of the journey brings us to Port Allen, Louisiana, where products are blended and transferred onto ships for transport across the globe.
Thanks to this network, LDC has efficient logistics planning, allowing for better control over the timing and quality of grains and oilseeds shipped to the terminal at Port Allen.
And while technology may bring rapid change, the Mississippi itself moves at its own pace. And LDC’s commitment here is enduring.