ND Port Services aim to improve region’s intermodal transportation

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | November 12, 2014

North Dakota Port Services Inc. is attempting to convince BNSF railroad that transportation costs can be lowered and efficiency improved by increasing intermodal container shipping from its Minot, North Dakota facility.

“BNSF railroad doesn’t think we have the market demand up here to quantify having a container service,” says Tawnya Bernsdorf, NDPS director of public relations.

NDPS contends that between the imports and exports of products, materials and equipment to serve the oil and gas industry in the Bakken and agricultural exports, the region can support and benefit from improved intermodal transportation services. 

To accomplish its objective, NDPS hosted a meeting in Minot on Oct. 27-28. The event provided an opportunity for importers and exporters to meet one-on-one with BNSF, which services the railway’s Northern Tier Intermodal Line, and other freight carriers.

In addition to meeting with BNSF executives, shippers were also able to meet privately with individual ocean carriers. The meeting helped BNSF quantify market demand and verify ocean carrier support for intermodal service to the region.

Bernsdorf says that improved intermodal transportation would enable shipments of equipment and materials to the Bakken to arrive by rail at Minot and then be trucked to their destinations. Currently, the nearest intermodal transportation facilities are in Seattle and Minneapolis, she notes.

Located in the region's agricultural and energy sector, NDPS serves areas 250 miles or more around Minot, including eastern Montana, northern South Dakota, northwestern Minnesota, southern Manitoba, and southeastern Saskatchewan.

Examples of import products shipped to the oil and gas industry include heavy equipment, building supplies, pipe, proppants, diesel fuel, gasoline, crane mats and other well completion materials. Bakken exports include crude, propane, butane and condensate.

The privately owned NDPS is serviced by BNSF's Northern Tier Intermodal Line, adjacent to the railroad’s Gavin Yard (main-line switch yard) with daily service and four-lane highway access. Located on a 120-acre site, NDPS is planning an expansion. NDPS can handle a full intermodal unit train along with approximately 80 manifest rail cars.