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Facts About the Inland Waterways System

November 15, 2018

Barge waterway transportation is the most effective, safe, and green way to move bulk material. Whether you do it often or are considering your first waterways move, there are many benefits that barging can bring the economy and environment. Explore the benefits of moving goods via the Inland Waterway System.


Did you know many of the goods we use every day frequent waterways? In the United States, 60 percent of exported grain, 20 percent of coal, and 22 percent of the nation’s petroleum travel waterways annually. Of that 244 million tons of petroleum, a full barge can carry enough gasoline to fuel 2,500 cars for one year.

The size of the barge makes it the most efficient mode of transportation. A typical barge’s capacity is 15 times more than that of a train car and 60 times more than that of a semi-truck. Because of this, one 15-barge tow reduces congestion by 1,050 trucks and 200 railcars. This saves money too; in 2010, transportation on waterways saved $180 billion and the transportation of 566 million tons of goods. Plus, transporting these goods by barges employs 33,000 Americans.


Waterway travel has significantly lower rates of injury and fatality than alternative modes of transportation. In the years 2001-2009, there were 19.1 rail sector fatalities and 132 highway sector fatalities for every one inland marine sector fatality. For every singular injury in freight transportation occurring in water, 95.3 occur in the rail sector and 1,609.3 occur in the highway sector.


Waterway travel is better for the environment too. Per million ton-miles, trains emit 21.35 tons of CO2, trucks emit 171.83, and barges emit 16.41. Barges are more fuel efficient too. With a single gallon of fuel, they travel 616 ton-miles, while trucks travel 150 and trains travel 478.

Waterways weave through 38 states for 12,000 miles with 192 lock sites. They carry about 600 million tons of cargo every year. Ozinga’s role on these waterways via Middle River Marine, our barging and marine services business, is influential.

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