Wellsville Intermodal Facility Eyes Markets on Ohio River

WELLSVILLE, Ohio – The Wellsville Intermodal Facility was designed to take in thousands of tons of commodities – minerals and foodstuffs — from barges, then load them onto trucks or freight trains or store them in nearby warehouses, silos and tanks.

But on Tuesday an overhead crane loaded 1,800 tons of limestone onto a barge to be shipped from the intermodal park, which officials view as the start of more activity on the Ohio River.

“We’re now at the point where business is growing. So it’s starting to move out the other way,” said the owner and president of Pier 48 Stevedoring, Larry Heck.

Pier 48 signed a lease with the Columbiana County Port Authority in 2012 to operate a 60-ton overhead crane and conveyor belt system that unload barges carrying raw materials and other commodities. The port authority owns the industrial park.

Heck said the limestone unloaded from the barge is the beginning of what he foresees as considerable business to come. “We went through a period of about a year and a half, which was a down period, but now we see an upsurge in the use of barite for the oil field industry,” he said. “Soy beans [shipping] has been pretty consistent and coils are picking up a little more.”

Pier 48 can handle more volume since the installation of a $5.1 million Mantsinen 120 HybriLift crane and conveyor system. The system, built in Finland, was purchased in September 2016. “It’s been quite an asset to our facility here,” Heck says.

Penny Traina is executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority and Larry Heck owns Pier 48 Stevedoring.

For the first few years, Pier 48 had only one crane to unload barges and transfer their contents to rail or truck. With the new Mantsinen crane, Pier 48 can pick up bulk commodities, such as soybeans or barite, more easily

“Commodities on barges move independently of each other so two different shipments could end up at your barge at one time,” Heck said. “Now we can bring in more products in less time.”

The newer crane can lift about 800 tons of bulk material in an hour from barges.

The addition of the second crane allowed Pier 48 to hire more employees, those needed to run the crane and conveyor system.

Penny Traina, executive director of the port authority, points to more potential business because the intermodal facility is directly between the ethane cracker plant under construction in Monaca, Pa., just 25 miles upriver from Wellsville, and the proposed cracker plant project in Belmont County downriver.

“Columbiana County is geographically blessed here,” she said.

“One barge filled with a commodity is equivalent to 70 large semi-trucks,” Traina says, “So you are able to move larger amounts on the river.”

One focus of the Columbiana County Port Authority this year is marketing the Ohio River. “It is under-utilized and under-marketed,” Traina said.

The port authority and 16 counties in Ohio and West Virginia are working toward receiving the designation of Mid-Ohio Valley Statistical Port District to be included in the statistics and cargo tonnage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) compiles.

Such inclusion in the Corps of Engineers will help the port authority in lobbying officeholders in Washington, D.C. to secure more funds to promote the businesses on the river.

“By the way of collecting the statistical data, we would be able to show that we have the ability to bring in more cargo to move up and down the Ohio River,” Traina said.

WATCH Daily BUZZ: Tons of Business on the Ohio River

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