The International Port of Memphis

Electrolux manufacturing plant is a recent recruit to the Port of Memphis.

photograph courtesy Port of Memphis

The International Port of Memphis is a vital piece to the region’s economy, but because of its location on the river, at the edge of the city off of interstate exit ramps, for many locals it’s out of sight, out of mind. But every time you see a barge crawling along the Mississippi River or a train along Poplar Avenue that helps you hit the lottery with a run of flashing yellow lights, it’s happening in large part because of the Port of Memphis.

It’s the second-largest inland port on the shallow draft portion of the Mississippi River and the fourth-largest inland port in the U.S. Its scope includes both sides of the river and covers from river miles 725 to 740. Within that boundary are 68 water-fronted facilities, 37 of which are terminal facilities moving petroleum, tar, asphalt, cement, steel, coal, salt, fertilizer, rock and gravel, and grains. From McKellar Lake/Presidents Island, through the West Memphis Harbor, Rivergate Harbor, and up to Wolf River Harbor and Fullen Dock & Warehouse north of downtown, the Port of Memphis flexes its muscle and keeps our economy chugging.

Joining tenants who call the Port of Memphis home such as the Valero petroleum refinery, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Riceland, Drexel Chemical, GlaxoSmithKline, W.M. Barr & Company, Lucite, and Cummings are the manufacturing facilities of Electrolux and Mitsubishi Electric.


MBQ: How important is the port to the logistics power of the city/region?

Randy Richardson: The port has been a key logistics asset to the city of Memphis and the entire Delta region for decades. The port produces more than $7 billion in economic impact for the region while serving as a key connection point for the five Class 1 railroads that serve the Memphis market. One key example of how the port works with other modes is CN Railway’s facility in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, which can accept imports from their international port and ship them over rail to CN’s intermodal facility located at the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park.

How important is river transportation to Memphis today compared to how important it has been historically?

RR: The Mississippi River and the Port of Memphis have always been extremely important to the Memphis economy. I can say that in 2013, one change that we saw was that the port is receiving far more attention from the federal government. The extreme flooding the port suffered in 2011, followed by sustained low water in 2012, and the damage caused to the harbor by both events really raised awareness of how essential the port is to moving goods throughout the entire country. This year alone, the port hosted five members of the Congressional Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam (left) and Jack Truong, President and CEO of Electrolux Major Appliances North America, tour the company’s new facility in January 2014.

How important is the Port of Memphis to the region’s agriculture economy?

RR: The port has always been a significant asset for distributing commodities, and that holds true today. One great example of this is that the two largest agribusiness companies in the world, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), both have major grain storage facilities located on Presidents Island at the Port of Memphis. Both companies receive and transport tons of different types of seasonal agricultural products each year. Cargill also has a corn processing plant that utilizes Midwest corn received by barge and train to make corn by-product ingredients for human consumption. Additionally, ADM has a liquid storage facility at the port that handles predominantly fuel additives.  

What does the future hold for the Port of Memphis? Any new trends or tenants or other developments on the horizon?

RR: The future is incredibly bright for the Port of Memphis as we look forward to two significant projects. We will be finalizing a plan in the coming months to significantly expand rail capacity at Presidents Island. This will be a boon to the manufacturers that have grown and expanded over the years and now need more rail capacity to distribute their products. Part of this rail expansion project may include actually creating more industrial acres at Presidents Island. Funding options are under review to leverage the rail project for expansion of the, at capacity, industrial park.

Another exciting project we are working on is CN Railway’s expansion of its Intermodal Gateway-Memphis terminal at Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park. CN recently exercised an option to buy an additional 95 acres at the park to expand its intermodal facility, and the railroad is working with a developer on potentially buying another 825 acres to create a distribution and logistics park for its customers.

For more info, go to

Bio: Randy Richardson

Executive Director, Port of Memphis

Randy Richardson was employed by the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission as Administrative Manager in June 1990, promoted to Deputy Director in 1993, and promoted to Executive Director in 2010.

Richardson is a member and past Chairman of the Board of Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals, is on the Board of Directors and is the Basin Chairman for the Lower Mississippi River, and is on the Board of Directors of the National Waterways Conference.

Richardson is also a member of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., and the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council. Richardson is the Chairman of the Area Maritime Security Committee-Memphis. He is also a member of the Society of American Military Engineers, Member of the Presidents Island Industrial Association, and on the Board of Directors of Memphis Plywood Company.

Richardson was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, and raised in Memphis. Richardson graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a B.A. in Geography and from the University of Memphis with a Master’s in City and Regional Planning.

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