The International Port of Memphis is the United States' fourth largest inland port, and it is the second largest on the Mississippi River's shallow-draft portion. Covering both the Tennessee and Arkansas banks of the Mississippi, there are 68 waterfront facilities on the 15-mile stretch of the International Port of Memphis. Of those, 37 are terminal facilities handling cargoes like tar, petroleum, cement, asphalt, coal, steel, fertilizers, salt, rock and gravel, and grains. Almost all of the industries included in the International Port of Memphis are based on Presidents Island.
In 1879, the Tennessee General Assembly established the five-member Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission with commissioners nominated by the mayor. Composed of residents of the Port of Memphis and Shelby County, the Commission is responsible for promotional and economic development of the Port of Memphis, for monitoring the foreign trade zone, for coordinating public cargo terminal services, and for leasing or selling land within the Port of Memphis, including Presidents Island and the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park.
The Port of Memphis infrastructure includes five river ports and almost 100 public and private individual terminals. The river ports include the International Port of Memphis and three ports in Arkansas (West Memphis-Crittenden, Helena-West Helena, and Osceola) as well as the Port of Cates under the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority. The International Port of Memphis handles more than 90% of the traffic.
The International Port of Memphis contains five public terminals with 11 berths. The public terminals are located at McKeller Lake/Presidents Island, Rivergate Harbor, West Memphis Harbor, Fullen Dock and Warehouse, and Wolf River Harbor. The Fullen Dock and Warehouse is the only terminal in the International Port of Memphis that directly loads containers to and from barges and trucks.
Located along 24 kilometers (15 miles) of the Mississippi waterfront are up to 200 industries. The International Port of Memphis has total capacity of more than 12.3 million bushels of grain in 50 concrete silos, 23 steel storage tanks, and six grain elevators. Cargoes traveling through the Port of Memphis are dominated by petroleum, coal, crude materials, food and farm products, and manufactured goods.
Almost all of the industries are located on Presidents Island, the most-developed terminal in the International Port of Memphis. Over 100 industries are based there. The Port of Memphis' Presidents Island is served by the Canadian National Railway, and it is connected with Interstate Highways 44 and 55 by the Jack Carley Causeway. The Island has one of the world's biggest cranes, a 1500-ton stiff-leg derrick crane. Port of Memphis cargoes shipped from Presidents Island include oilseed, soybeans, animal feed, wheat and rice, petroleum, iron and steel scrap, gasoline, and fuel oil.
The newest terminal in the International Port of Memphis is the 1000+ hectare Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park. The major tenant at the park is an intermodal terminal, the Intermodal Gateway, operated jointly by CSX Transportation and Canadian National.
The United States Army's Corps of Engineers' Ensley engineering yard is located in the Port of Memphis. Encompassing 63.5 hectares, the yard supports a fleet of more than 33 Coast Guard vessels. It contains administrative offices, repair shops, and warehouses serving the 571-kilometer (355-mile) stretch of the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers and other waterways that make up the Port of Memphis District.
The Port of Memphis generates $7.1 billion and 5162 jobs to the regional economy each year. The combined annual revenue of the 122 port tenants is $3.3 billion per year. The Port of Memphis' secondary economic contributions include almost $786 million in wages from direct and indirect jobs and payment of $33.8 million in combined taxes each year.
Cargo-handling services in the International Port of Memphis include intermodal interchange, bulk loading, chemical tank storage, LASH services, and product-specific warehousing. Several of the terminals in the Port of Memphis are equipped with large cranes (from 100- to 300-ton capacity), and there is a specialty heavy-lift service that can handle up to 1250 tons.
In 2010, the International Port of Memphis handled a total 12.1 million tons of cargo, receiving over eight million tons and shipping more than 3.7 million tons. Like other United States ports, the economic crisis in the United States has had severe impacts on the International Port of Memphis: 2010 was the lowest cargo-handling year of the decade.
Petroleum products (3.1 million tons) accounted for one quarter of all cargoes in the Port of Memphis and included almost 1.2 million tons of receipts and over 1.6 million tons of shipments. Within that category, distillate fuel oils accounted for nearly 1.1 million tons (340 thousand tons of receipts and 606 thousand tons of shipments), and gasoline accounted for 1.2 million tons (411 thousand tons of receipts and 669 thousand tons of shipments). The second largest category (22%) of cargo handled by the Port of Memphis was almost 2.7 million tons coal and lignite, all of which was incoming.
Food and farm products handled in the Port of Memphis were almost equal (also 22%) to coal at 2.6 million tons, including 588 thousand tons of receipts and almost two million tons of shipments. The Port of Memphis shipped over one million tons of soybeans. The Port of Memphis handled almost 1.1 million tons of grain, including 480 thousand tons of receipts and 584 thousand tons of shipments. The Port of Memphis handled almost 1.8 million tons (15% of total) of crude materials, including over 1.6 million tons of sand, gravel, rock, and stone. Within that group, the Port of Memphis received 829 thousand tons of limestone and handled 676 thousand tons of sand and gravel (673 thousand tons of receipts and three thousand tons of shipments).
The Port of Memphis handled more than 1.2 million tons (10%) of chemicals and related products, almost all incoming. Miscellaneous chemicals and chemical products accounted for 828 thousand tons (only 26,000 tons shipped), and fertilizers accounted for 379 thousand tons received. The International Port of Memphis received 778 thousand tons of manufactured goods, including 609 thousand tons of lime, cement, and glass; 159 thousand tons of iron and steel products; and nine thousand tons of non-ferrous metal products.
Not long ago, options for intermodal container shipping in the Port of Memphis were limited. In 2004, the Fullen Dock & Warehouse entered into a partnership with Houston-based Osprey Line, a short-sea operator, to ship containers around the world from the Port of Memphis via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers as far north as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and as far south as New Orleans. At first, the Port of Memphis shipped out about one barge a week loaded with empty containers, sending them up and down river to be loaded with cargo.
Increased traffic of full containers has increased dramatically in the Port of Memphis since 2004, largely because shipping by barge is much more economical than moving cargo by truck or rail. Fuel-efficiency is the primary factor leading shippers to use the Port of Memphis' Fullen Dock & Warehouse. Further, while a truck can move one container between the Port of Memphis and New Orleans in ten hours, a standard barge can haul as many as 90 TEUs of containerized cargo in three to five days. In 2005, this Port of Memphis terminal acquired a new all-hydraulic 250-ton lattice boom crawler crane that doubled loading/unloading capabilities, bringing the loading rate to 30 TEUs per hour. Today, Fullen Dock & Warehouse is a full-service intermodal river terminal located north of downtown Port of Memphis. Customers include barge brokers, manufacturers, and freight forwarders.
The Port of Memphis' Fullen Dock & Warehouse has five docks for unloading and one for loading, and it provides simultaneous on- and off-load services. In addition to containers, the terminal handles bulk materials, steel, limestone, heavy-lift and oversized cargo, steel, aggregate stone, and super sacks.
There are eight dry bulk terminals in the International Port of Memphis with total berthing distance of 1302 meters (4404 feet) and capacity to store about 581 thousand tons of dry bulk.
The Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission owns and operates the Port of Memphis terminal at Pidgeon Industrial Harbor. The entrance to Pidgeon Industrial Harbor is a 451-meter (1480-foot) long, 91.4-meter (300-foot) wide east-west channel that splits into the 643-meter (2110-foot) north and 1375-meter (4510-foot) south extensions at the inner end. There is storage space of almost 10 hectares at the rear of the dock. The Pidgeon Industrial Harbor at the Port of Memphis has berthing distance of 54.9 meters (180 feet) with alongside depth of 3.4 meters (11 feet).
The Helena-West Phillips County Port Authority (in Arkansas) specializes in shipping and receiving bulk cargoes of steel, grain, coal, and other dry bulk as well as breakbulk and general cargo for the Port of Memphis. The terminal dock has berthing distance of 237.7 meters (780 feet) with alongside depth of 2.7 meters (nine feet). Surface rail tracks connect with the Arkansas Midland and Union Pacific Railroads.
The International Port of Memphis contains six grain elevators with 682 meters (2238 feet) of berthing space. There are also 50 concrete silos and 25 steel tanks for storage of grains with capacity to store 12.3 million bushels.
There are 18 facilities in the International Port of Memphis that handle liquid bulk cargoes. These facilities offer over 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles) of berths and about 130 storage tanks with total capacity for about 2.8 million US liquid barrels. The Valero petroleum refinery located within the Port of Memphis is connected directly by pipeline to the Memphis International Airport, carrying jet fuel from the refinery to the airport.
American Commercial Terminals, LLC, owns and operates a terminal at the Port of Memphis Dock that ships and receives liquid bulk cargoes that include petroleum products, chemicals, and vegetable oils. The dock is also used for river excursion vessels and fueling towboats as well as for mid-stream mooring and fueling of barges. There is a blending plat at the rear of the docks that has a blending plant for bunker fuels and public storage warehouses for liquid bulk products. Operations at this Port of Memphis terminal include the direct transfer of products between trucks and barges, and five pipelines connect the wharf to 22 steel storage tanks with total capacity for 117 thousand barrels of liquid cargoes as well as to tanks for up to ten thousand barrels of lubricating oils. A surface rail track supports 13 loading stations at the rear of the dock and connects with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). This Port of Memphis dock has berthing distance of 97.5 meters (320 feet) with alongside depth of 2.7 meters (nine feet).
Archer Daniels Midland Company owns, and ADM River Port Corporation operates a terminal at the Port of Memphis Dock in Helena, Arkansas. The terminal is a public liquid bulk storage facility specializing in shipping and receiving liquid bulk cargoes that include ethanol and vegetable oils. This Port of Memphis wharf has five deck levels so that it can operate at a variety of water levels. Four pipelines connect the wharf to 13 steel storage tanks at the rear of the terminal with total capacity for 475 thousand US barrels. Two surface rail tracks serve the terminal and connect with Canada National, Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, and CSX. The ADM River Port facility in the Port of Memphis has berthing distance of 113.4 meters (372 feet) with alongside depth of 6.1 meters (20 feet).
The Memphis Queen Company owns and operates the River Boats Dock in the Port of Memphis on the Wolf River to board passengers and moor excursion vessels. This Port of Memphis dock has berthing distance of 75.6 meters (248 feet) with alongside depth of 3.4 meters (11 feet). Four excursion vessels moor end-to-shoreline at the wharf.
The International Port of Memphis is served by five class-one rail carriers (Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Canadian National, CSX, and Norfolk Southern). Located less than 15 minutes from the Memphis International Airport, a hugely busy air freight cargo center, the Port of Memphis has immediate access to Interstate Highways 40 and 55.
Since 2005, Canadian National has operated jointly with CSX a 62.7-hectare intermodal yard at the Port of Memphis' Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park. Canadian National plans to develop a logistics park at the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park that includes as much as 37 hectares of Port of Memphis warehousing and distribution buildings. Canadian National also invested $100 million in its intermodal classification yard in Southwest Memphis in 2009.