Mobile Port welcomes two new rail ferries

And earlier this year, the Port of Mobile launched two ships that will increase the port’s shipping capabilities while helping Alabama businesses internationally.

In a joint venture between Genesee & Wyoming and SEACOR Holdings – Central Gulf Railway (CGR) – two rail ferries will enable an expedited sea route connecting the US and Canadian rail networks to central and southern Mexico.

CGR is a rail terminal headquartered in Mobile. The company began operations in 2000. In 2017, Genesee & Wyoming and SEACOR Holdings formed a joint venture and acquired CGR.

The two double-decker roll-on/roll-off ferries – which have been considered the largest in the world and replace the two existing ferries that previously covered the route – are called the Cherokee and the Mayan. Both ferries are 590ft long and a little faster than their predecessors – capable of 14 knots compared to 9 knots. This allows for a greater amount of shipping as well as expedited service compared to previous ferries.

The ferries are also designed to carry up to 135 railcars each, representing a 17% increase in capacity per trip, according to CGR. Each year, the ferries will be able to transport 28,000 wagons along the route.

Port Authority of Alabama Director and CEO John Driscoll believes that by having CGR, Alabama companies have more direct access to some key markets in Mexico than before.

“CG Railway is an incredibly unique asset to the Port of Mobile serving the entire region,” said Driscoll. “We wouldn’t be able to provide this service without the hard working men and women who keep freight trains moving day in and day out, especially the port railway, TASD, which loads and unloads cargo every week. hundreds of wagons for these ships. With CGR, Alabama companies have direct two-day access to important aggregate and automotive markets in Mexico and are able to keep trade lanes open and supply chains moving.

The Cherokee began service in September 2021 while the Mayan debuted in March this year.

The route, which stretches 956 miles across the Gulf of Mexico from the port of Mobile to the port of Coatzacoalcos in Mexico, will ship railcars containing goods such as hazardous chemicals, petroleum products, forestry products, agricultural products, metals, food and related products every seven days.

Not only will the two ferries increase operational efficiency with the new maritime route to Mexico, but the aim is also to aim to improve the environmental footprint left by the company along its routes.

According to information provided by the CGR, with the new routes of the Cherokee and Mayan ferries – which include an average of 140 cars – there are about 343 tons of CO2 emissions. Whereas with 622 trucks – which is the estimated number needed to transport the same amount of goods – there would be over 3,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

On her initial voyage on September 12, 2021, the Cherokee carried 122 railcars across the Gulf of Mexico to her destination, the port of Coatzacoalcos, bringing back 130 railcars on September 18 to conclude her maiden voyage.

With the addition of the two ferries, CGR Services also built a full-service railcar repair shop, warehouse and transshipment services at the Port of Mobile.

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