US waterborne freight worth over US$16bn

Kirby vessel Kirby operates the largest inland and offshore tank barge fleets in the US.
Industry Database

A new report has found that the US market for waterborne freight was worth more than $16bn in 2018.

Amadee+Company’s Waterborne Freight Transportation in the United States: 2018 Market Size & Share Estimates,
2018 – 2023 Forecast looks at fleet, products moved, new market opportunities and the competitive environment, stating that while the inland and coastal maritime industry is very mature and fragmented, it is still highly valuable.

It explained that “the industry still generates significant profits for good operators. For example, Kirby Corporation had operating profits of more than $700 million between 2016 and 2018.

“Waterborne transportation also is of great strategic importance and is protected from foreign competition by the Jones Act.”

Kirby leading

The report identifies Kirby Corporation (public) as the leading player followed by American Commercial Barge (private) and Ingram Barge (private). However, it stated the industry is very fragmented with the top three players only having a combined market share of 21%. The other 79% is split among more than 500 (mainly) private companies.

Waterborne freight’s $16bn worth is split about equally between inland and coastal/Great Lakes segments. Approximately 2.3bn tonnes were shipped by water in 2018, with petroleum and refined petroleum products, food and agricultural products, and chemicals being the major product classes moved.

The report also stated that the industry will benefit from US oil production growth and investment in US petrochemicals projects.



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