North Dakota: Connecting To The World On Intermodal Rail

North Dakota’s new intermodal rail service is reducing shipping costs for agricultural exports and other goods shipped from the logistics park of ND.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2021 Issue

In October 2020, North Dakota launched intermodal rail service, the culmination of more than two decades of effort to gain access to intermodal transportation to reduce shipping costs for the state’s agricultural producers and other industries.

Intermodal service is the movement of international containers so producers and processors can directly load container on rail in Minot to ship to international destinations.

The launch of the program offers strategic business advantages for the Logistics Park of North Dakota, a BNSF site-certified location which has access to intermodal service, three U.S. Highways and is zoned for heavy industrial use. Shovel-ready rail and non-rail sites are currently available on the 800+ acre development.

North Dakota
(Photo: Minot Area Chamber)

Rail Modal Group (RMG) is operating the intermodal facility. RMG has developed a network of privately operated intermodal facilities providing services to inland containerized export shippers. In cooperation with BNSF Railway, RMG currently operates other intermodal ramps throughout the United States. Multiple ocean carriers reposition trainloads of empty containers from surplus locations in Chicago, IL; Memphis, TN; Dallas, TX; and other origins offering extensive export capacity. The operator is currently shipping one unit train out of Minot per week. Through June 2021, 28 full unit trains with over 6,000 containers have shipped out of the Minot facility.

“RMG is proud to support the producers and shippers throughout North Dakota and surrounding areas to provide international export capacity through our newly developed intermodal facility. Container source loading creates a vertical logistic solution that reduces transportation costs, reduces carbon footprint and develops sustainable, long-term international supply chains. All of these factors support growth for jobs and market expansion, while improving environmental impacts within the local and regional markets served by this asset,” said RMG President/CEO Greg Oberting. “Our partnership with BNSF continues to grow with this opportunity to develop intermodal solutions for Minot.”

The introduction of intermodal service creates dramatic economic benefit to producers, processors, miners and shippers of everything from grain and minerals to industrial and manufactured products. All of these suppliers benefit from this newly created transportation option. It also creates opportunity for inbound container movement.

Promoting an economical and sustainable intermodal transportation opportunity for North Dakota creates tremendous long-term value to agriculture and economic growth throughout the region. It also anchors North Dakota on a competitive transportation level with Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City.

Amy McBeth, BNSF Regional AVP Public Affairs added, “Rail transportation has always been integral to the Minot and state economies, and this new intermodal facility expands rail service even further. In addition to the intermodal facility, Minot hosts the only BNSF Certified Site in the state. The designation by BNSF identifies rail-served industrial sites that have met stringent readiness standards intended to reduce development time and risk for companies seeking rail-served sites.”

Minot’s facility will provide service to The Northwest Seaport Alliance with on-dock trains to terminals in Seattle and Tacoma. Representatives from the Northwest Seaport Alliance highlighted the importance of the North Dakota intermodal operations.

“This new rail service means lower costs for our export customers in the Great Plains shipping valuable agricultural commodities through our gateway,” said Peter Steinbrueck, Port of Seattle commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “In the Puget Sound region, this service also supports new, additional cargo, which will help grow our market share and support more family-wage jobs.”

“As one of the top agricultural export gateways in North America, The Northwest Seaport Alliance congratulates BNSF Railway, Rail Modal Group, Minot Area Chamber EDC, the City of Minot and the State of North Dakota for their creative partnership in supporting the U.S. agricultural exports,” said John McCarthy, Port of Tacoma commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “As our nation recovers from the global pandemic, this is a great example of how ports and agricultural sectors drive economic growth.”

While the facility is located in Minot, this strategic location serves the entire state and region. For more information about The Logistics Park of North Dakota and Intermodal operated by Rail Modal Group contact Minot Area Chamber EDC.

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