Sunday, January 24, 2016

Coal collapse on the Ohio, part 1

All text and charts © 2016 Jim Ross

My return to serious river photography began in late 2007 when I bought my digital SLR camera. I found boats I was familiar with from the 1960s and 1970s, and I found some that were relatively new to the river. I missed some familiar names such as Ohio River Co. and M/G Transport Services, but the industry was undergoing a consolidation similar to those of others I had covered as a business reporter.

Thanks to losing my job as my then-employer had to slash payroll by 12 percent, I found myself with some free time in the summer of 2009. So, I began getting new pictures of towboats, dams, bridges and other things you see along the river. That year and 2010 were good years to be on the river, as traffic was strong and companies were bringing new boats to the Ohio.

As I've mentioned before, nowadays when I go down to the river, I see fewer boats. Here, in two graphs, is why.

Coal is the main product moved on the Ohio River in the area that I am most familiar with. Here is a chart comparing the amount of coal moved through each lock in 2005 and 2015.

If you want to look at that in terms of how tonnage numbers changed in those years, take a look at this one.

(All numbers in both charts are in thousands of tons).

I spend most of my time in the Greenup pool, and as you can tell, the locks at Greenup and Gallipolis Robert C. Byrd have gone from being the busiest in moving coal to being among the least busy. That's probably due to the collapse of the Central Appalachian coal industry.

More on that soon.

Next: The Kanawha River