General Motors and DaimlerChrysler have made contingency plans with a Detroit ferry service to move vehicles and vehicle parts across the Detroit River should the border crossings become clogged or closed due to wartime security measures, Dow Jones reported.

According to Dow Jones, Gregg Ward, vice president of Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry, said his firm has negotiated with the companies to run at full capacity – for 24 hours a day – to help keep trucking lines moving in case of an emergency.

Running at that pace, his boats can move 400 trucks across the river each day, and Ward told the news agency that GM and Chrysler will probably use about 80% of that capacity.

While tolls at the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor, Ontario, with Detroit, cost between $US25 and $35 depending on the weight of the truck, Ward’s ferry service costs $100 per truck, the report said.

But the additional labour costs associated with having drivers idling at the congested crossings, and dealing with the uncertainty over when products will arrive at their destination, outweigh the additional cost for the car makers, Ward told Dow Jones.

GM spokesman Tom Wickham told Dow Jones the company is not disclosing what its contingency plans are, but noted that the company hasn’t seen any problems with its existing infrastructure. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, Wickham said, the company used the barges to move some parts across the border, Dow Jones reported. Cars and light trucks, he added, are traditionally moved by rail.

Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez told Dow Jones the company has several other contingency plans in place, including the truck ferry.

Gutierrez also told Dow Jones that Chrysler participates in the Free and Secure Trade Act, which has allowed the company to get customs clearance ahead of time for its parts, drivers and trucks and added that the company also has an exclusive contract with Canadian-Pacific Rail to use an underground rail line that runs under the Ambassador Bridge and two DC-8 heavy lift aircraft on tap in case of border crossing problems.