Frequently Asked Questions on the Inland Waterways Navigation System

How are inland waterways funded?

The Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) pays 50% of capital improvements (new construction and rehabilitation) of waterways projects. The remaining 50% is paid by the Federal General Revenue Fund (the taxpayer).

Who pays for the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the waterways?

The Federal General Revenue Fund through annual appropriations from Congress. This appropriation is generally $300 to $400 million annually.

How does the IWTF accumulate money?

From a fuel tax (currently 20 cents per gallon) paid by the commercial towing industry.

How much money does the IWTF take in every year?

About $100 million from the fuel taxes plus $15-20 million in interest.

What is the Inland Waterways User Board (IWUB)?

An advisory board of 11 members who represent inland waterways shippers and carriers.

What is the function of the IWUB?

The Board submits an annual report to the Secretary of the Army and Congress recommending which projects for proposed construction or rehabilitation on the inland navigation system should have priority.

How much does it cost to build a towboat?

The generally accepted cost is approximately $1000 per horsepower. So a 5000 horsepower boat would cost about $5 million dollars. Towboats plying the inland waterways system today range from a few hundred horsepower up to ten thousand horsepower. The larger boats work on the Lower Mississippi River, where there are no locks and the river is free-flowing.

How much does it cost to build a barge?

Open dry cargo hopper barge – about $225,000
Tank or liquid barge – $750,000 and up, depending on specialized equipment aboard.

What does it cost to ship a ton of grain from St. Paul, Minnesota to New Orleans?

The distance from St. Paul to New Orleans is about 2000 miles. The cost of shipping grain on that route is about $14 per ton. The cost of shipping a ton of any commodity will depend on the size of a load, the distance it must be carried, and any special requirements associated with the load. (See examples of cost comparisons of certain commodities on the Alabama River system.)

What are the duties of a pilot on a towboat?

The pilot steers the towboat and its fleet of barges through the waterway. The pilot manipulates the boat’s engines and rudders, monitors navigation instruments, issues directions to crew members, and maintains communications with appropriate agencies. Pilots must meet rigid qualification and certification standards. The pilot is subordinate to the boat’s master.

What are the duties of the boat’s master?

The oversees the full tow spread from the kitchen and dining room to the engine room and mechanic personnel to each barge. The master is always present and participates in pilot house situations when conditions dictate. The master also keeps records, sends proper reports, and maintains contact with the company headquarters.

What is the normal crew workday aboard a towboat?

Crews aboard towboats generally work six hours on and six hours off, for a total of 12 hours a day. A normal work period is 30 days afloat and 20 to 30 days off.

How is the operating cost of a towboat accounted for?

About one-third of operating costs are personnel costs (crew wages, benefits, food, travel, etc.). About one-half goes to fuel and oil. Repairs make up about 15-20%, with the rest miscellaneous costs.

How much of the annual cargo moved within the United States is moved by barge?

About 15%, or one out of every eight tons.

What are the major commodities transported on barges in the United States?

Coal, grain and farm products, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, sand and gravel, wood and wood products.

What are the major benefits of the inland navigation system over other modes of transportation?

  • generally less costly
  • safer
  • fewer atmospheric emissions
  • more fuel-efficient
  • more collateral benefits (recreation, flood control, etc.)
  • quieter