Home » MRNKY17: DHL global hub, massive inland port, extensive roads handle billions in global commerce

MRNKY17: DHL global hub, massive inland port, extensive roads handle billions in global commerce

By Robbie Clark

Moving more than 800,000 tons of cargo in 2015 and processing approximately 46 million international shipments annually, DHL's presence at CVG makes the airport the eighth largest cargo airport in North America, and the 34th largest in the world.
Moving more than 800,000 tons of cargo in 2015 and processing approximately 46 million international shipments annually, DHL’s presence at CVG makes the airport the eighth largest cargo airport in North America, and the 34th largest in the world.

With its advantageous proximity to a large portion of the nation’s population, position on the Ohio River, and access to a large network of interstates, Northern Kentucky is an important logistical hub for moving goods into and around the region, the country and the world.

One of the largest international logistics companies in the world, German-based DHL established its U.S. international hub – one of three DHL global hubs – at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) in 2009. Since then the air freight company has invested more than $280 million in the facility and employs over 2,400 workers.

mrnk-cover300Moving more than 800,000 tons of cargo in 2015 and processing approximately 46 million international shipments annually, DHL’s presence at CVG makes the airport the ninth largest cargo airport in North America, and the 34th largest in the world.

In November 2016, DHL completed a $108 million expansion at its CVG base to meet the needs of continued growth in e-commerce and global trade.

“This multimillion-dollar investment underscores the DHL commitment to the U.S. market and the integral role that our hub here plays in connecting the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky region to our vast global network,” said Stephen Fenwick, CEO of DHL Express Americas, in a press release. “The expansion and service enhancements from this investment will provide additional infrastructure and efficiency. This in turn will support the continued growth in international shipments that we’re seeing as well as add to the economic well-being of this region.”

On the water, the Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky were ranked the busiest inland port in the nation in 2016, and 13th busiest port in the entire country, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 2015 a group of economic development organizations led by the Central Ohio River Business Association (CORBA), a riparian business association with more than 50 members representing barge and towing companies, equipment supply companies, cargo terminals, shippers and public agencies, worked to re-designate the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky ports. Prior to the new designation, the Port of Cincinnati covered only 26 miles and moved about 12 million tons of cargo annually. With the new designation, the port corridor stretches over 226 miles on the Ohio River and seven miles on the Licking River, and includes 15 counties, 10 of which are in Kentucky, and handles more than 50 million tons of cargo annually.

CORBA Executive Director Eric Thomas with Benchmark Terminals, who has worked in the area’s maritime industry for more than 18 years, says a variety of industries in the region depend on the bulk shipping, almost 60 million tons annually, that comes down the river – especially coal and petroleum products, but also grains and construction materials.

Thomas says a single river vessel can push an entire tow, which consists of 15 barges, that can carry the equivalent of 216 freight railcars or 1,050 tractor trailers. 

“Maritime shipping is definitely the cleanest, most environmentally friendly way to move bulk materials, and the most efficient,” he said. “And frankly, it’s oldest mode of transportation in the world, in terms of bulk transport. It was used prior to rail and highway traffic. Even early in the United States, the rivers were the vital way to move product east to west.”

With the just completed $5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal in Central America – a decade-long project – CORBA members hope to see an increase in opportunities for inland waterways. More freight from larger oceangoing ships originating in Southeast Asia will be able to access the Gulf of Mexico and eventually the Ohio River. The new designation could give Northern Kentucky more prominence.

Recently CORBA completed a complex mapping system of the entire available logistical infrastructure within the entire port system, from Portsmouth, Ohio, all the way west to Madison, Ind., along the Ohio River, as well as along the stretch of The Licking River. Located on the organization’s website, the Central Ohio River Information System shows the position of dams and locks, railroad lines, river mile makers, river gauges, and uses real-time information to present the current locations of tugboats on the water. The system also has a searchable database for all the ports’ locations within the system.

“If someone from another country is looking at the list (of ports) and they see that we’re high up on the list, we may get more attention than we did before,” said Jack Weiss, president of Cincinnati Bulk Terminals and one of 10 members of the Northern Kentucky port board.

Cincinnati Bulk Terminals operates three unloading docks on the Ohio River and can handle a variety of bulk materials, such as steel and minerals. Cincinnati Bulk Terminals’ subsidiary Port of Cincinnati has nearly 90,000 s.f. of warehouse storage and 10 acres of outside storage.

On the ground, four major interstate highways intersect in the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati region: I-75, I-71, I-74 and I-275. Sixty percent of the nation’s population is located within 600 miles of the area, and 20 major metro regions are within a day’s drive of Northern Kentucky – a situation many ground shipping companies take advantage of.

One of the largest private company employers in Northern Kentucky, Verst Group Logistics is a third-party company that provides packaging, warehousing and transportation services to companies in 48 states. In 2015, Verst expanded by leasing an entire 189,400-s.f. building near the CVG airport – one of the largest lease transactions of the year for Northern Kentucky.

And while DHL is the largest, it is not the only major freight shipper in the area. FedEx Ground Package System is undergoing a $150 million expansion to add 355,000 s.f. of space to its existing distribution center in Burlington, Ky. The expansion will add 62 new full-time jobs and 378 part-time jobs. The distribution center was established in Northern Kentucky in 2004.

Total Quality Logistics (TQL), with its corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, is the second largest freight brokerage firm in North America. The company oversees the movement of more than 500,000 truckload shipments annually.

By rail, the Northern Kentucky region is served by major rail companies, including Norfolk-Southern, CSX and RailAmerica, one of the largest owner-operators of short-line railroads in the country.


Hebron, KY


Aries Global Logistics

Crestview Hills, KY


B & B Transportation Inc.

Burlington, KY


Bluegrass Diesel Specialists, Inc.

Burlington, KY


CEVA Logistics

Hebron, KY


Complete Forklift Repair

Corinth, KY


DACHSER Transport of America, Inc.

Burlington, KY


DHL Express (USA) Inc.

Erlanger, KY


DHL Global Forwarding

Hebron, KY


FedEx Ground

Independence, KY


Fisher Scientific

Florence, KY


FITS Enterprises

FITS Trailer Leasing, LLC

Walton, KY


Inland Marine Service

Hebron, KY


Kuehne + Nagel, Inc.

Erlanger, KY


LeanCor LLC

Florence, KY


Legion Logistics LLC

Florence, KY


McLane Foodservice Distribution

Hebron, KY


Merchants Cold Storage LLC

Walton, KY


Nippon Express USA Inc.

Erlanger, KY


NNR Global Logistics USA, Inc

Erlanger, KY


Panalpina Inc.

Erlanger, KY


PEI – Dynamic Supply Chain Solutions, LLC

Fort Mitchell, KY


Penske Truck Leasing

Erlanger, KY


Pilot Freight Services

Erlanger, KY


R.L. Swearer Co., Inc.

Erlanger, KY


Safe Ship Newport

Newport, KY


Sandvik Americas Distribution Center

Hebron, KY


SEKO Logistics/Commercial Transport, Inc.

Erlanger, KY


Southern Air

Florence, KY


Stett Transportation, Inc.

Fort Mitchell, KY

Team Worldwide CVG

Erlanger, KY


Total Quality Logistics

Erlanger, KY


Two Men and a Truck Northern Kentucky

Erlanger, KY


UPS Freight

Cincinnati, OH


UPS Supply Chain Solutions

Hebron, KY


Verst Group Logistics

Walton, KY


Vista Packaging & Logistics

Erlanger, KY


VR Transportation, Inc.

Hebron, KY


Information provided by Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce