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The US has a natural inland waterway system that is the envy of most other countries, so why has maintaining the infrastructure that serves shippers that use it – ports, locks and navigation channels – seem so lacking? Most of the locks on the Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois rivers were built in the first half of the 20th century, with an expected lifetime of 50 years, and are now approaching double that. One problem is funds – the US Army Corps of Engineers estimates revamping the entire network would cost $125bn – while another is who gets them. But one thing is certain: America’s exporters need better routes to market if they are to remain competitive.