VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON, U.S. — The Port of Vancouver USA on Aug. 27 signed an agreement with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to provide dedicated rail service (DRS) to move the state’s agricultural products west in would-be empty railcars.

“Based on customer commitments, the Port of Vancouver will lease blocks of railcars to move products,” said Chief Executive Officer Todd Coleman. “This means more cars are available, reliability is increased and North Dakota farmers remain competitive in the global market.”

Cargoes, including supplies for the energy industry, are already moving by rail east from the Pacific Northwest to the Midcontinent. Those railcars often return west without cargo. The DRS introduces more control and efficiency into the process by allowing the port to lease railcars to carry those eastbound cargoes. Once the eastbound cargoes have been delivered, the port and its logistics partners will fill cars with agricultural products for the return trip to Vancouver.

“We’re looking at moving the first full railcars back to Vancouver as early as mid-September,” said Coleman. “This unique service would not be possible without the support of our partners in North Dakota, and we look forward to a long and productive relationship.”

The port’s responsibilities under the agreement include designating load centers, managing railcars, coordinating with BNSF Railway and providing monthly service reports.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s responsibilities include collection of product and production data, communicating with the agriculture community and with small to mid-size shippers.

Bulk agricultural products are one of the port’s key service areas and grain is its top export by weight. In the first half of this year, nearly 1.4 million tons of wheat moved through the port on its way to markets in the Pacific Rim. Sixteen percent of U.S. wheat and millions of tons of corn and soybeans flow through the port each year.