Kentucky Has Good Water Ports in Place

Kentucky has seven operating river ports and its access to the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers provides shipping conduits to the Great Lakes, Mexican and South American markets, and to the deep-draft ports of New Orleans and Mobile for shipments overseas.

On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 10:09


Opportunity knocks at docks throughout Kentucky, where a strong port system adds to the commonwealth’s sophisticated and integrated transportation system.

Kentucky has seven operating riverports, and its access to the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers provides shipping connections to the Great Lakes as well as the deep-draft ports of New Orleans and Mobile along the Gulf of Mexico.

“The public ports in Kentucky were formed in 1976 and the largest of them is Owensboro Riverport with regard to tonnage, revenue and acreage,” says Ed Riney, president and CEO of Owensboro Riverport Authority. “We are ideally situated on the Ohio River that provides us good access to the Gulf, and we indeed receive a lot of products coming up from Mobile and New Orleans. Owensboro Riverport is so busy that we are building a second dock in 2013 to prepare for future growth.”

A $250,000 Dividend

Owensboro primarily deals in three commodity segments – metals, agricultural products and paper products.

“The port handles a lot of aluminum and some steel along with bulk fertilizer, liquid fertilizer and about 10 million bushels of grain each year,” Riney says. “We are also a key distribution center for Kimberly-Clark and Domtar Paper. Of the products we handle, 30 percent are agricultural, 30 percent are paper, and 40 percent metals.”

Riney adds that Owensboro can accommodate all size barges and has a staff of 30 employees.

“We are self sufficient and actually pay a $250,000 dividend back to the City of Owensboro each year, as opposed to seeking government funds to operate as many ports do,” he says. “We are one of only two ports in the entire United States to pay back, with the other being Tri-Cities Port in St. Louis.”

Roads, Tracks and the Sky

Kentucky’s superior transportation system also includes integrated highways, rail and airports. The state's location in the center of eastern United States puts its borders within 600 miles of more than 60 percent of the nation’s population.

Kentucky has 79,000 miles of federal, state and local roads, including five major interstates, I-75, I-71, I-65, I-64 and I-24. Numerous U.S. highways and a network of limited-access state parkways also serve the state. This easily accessible transportation network has drawn many distribution centers to the state.

As for rail carriers, the top Tier I lines are Canadian National, CSX and Norfolk Southern. For air traffic, there are five commercial airports in the Bluegrass State, with Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International and Louisville International being the two largest. Those two airports also house major air cargo delivery hubs, with UPS operating out of Louisville and DHL based at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International. Kentucky annually ranks among the top five states in the nation for air cargo shipments.