Persistent drought and low water conditions are not keeping the Tulsa Port of Catoosa from reaching record cargo levels.
Chairman David Page gave the 2013 State of the Port address Thursday, announcing the annual shipping total of 2.7 million tons.
This new total easily beats the previous record of 2.4 million tons set in 1998, Page said.
Not only was 2012 a record year, but the Port began 2013 with the highest single monthly total cargo shipping in the history of the Port — 307,997 tons — delivered in 149 barges, Page added.
“This proves that new industries and shipping companies are finding more and more uses for this already versatile and cost-effective method of shipping cargo,” Page said. “Of course it is further proof that the Tulsa Port of Catoosa was an extremely wise investment made by the citizens of this region more than four decades ago.”
Regardless of what the future may have in store, the Port will continue to invest in new infrastructure and operating capabilities, he added.
In June 2012, the Port was awarded $6.4 million matching grant through the 2012 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Program, TIGER program.
The funds will cover 48 percent of the projected cost for the rehabilitation of the main dock.
The project will include demolition of the existing obsolete transit shed, construction of a new concrete surface and railroad sidings.
Once completed the Port’s main dock capacity will be doubled, Page said.
“The rehabilitation of the main dock at the Port will generate substantial, long-term benefits to the region and the nation by significantly increasing the Port’s overall capacity through creation of a state-of-the-art cargo handling facility,” Page said.
More than one million tons of iron, steel and break bulk cargo will be able to be handled per year.
“These capacity improvements have the potential to redirect barge, truck and rail transport traffic, including container shipments, from a number of Gulf ports to inland waterborne traffic routes, through the Port of New Orleans and subsequently to our Port” Page said.
The potential increase will require growth at the Port, according to Page.
A five-acre truck staging area opened at the end of 2012 and the construction of a locomotive storage maintenance facility will help meet the demands, he added.
The Port is creating more employment opportunities and working to improve the health and will being of the 4,000 plus workforce.
Several new businesses were welcomed to the Port in 2012, also increasing the employment opportunities, Page added.
In spite of the positive growth, Page outlined a very serious issue facing the Port.
Deferred maintenance of the lock and dam system and a reduction in system operating hours is a crucial challenge, according to Page.
“According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we currently have a backlog of critical maintenance projects that approaches $100 million,” Page said.
Critical maintenance, as defined by the Corps, means that these types of projects have a 50 percent chance of failure within the next five years.
If that happens, the resulting closure of the navigation system would cost the state of Oklahoma an estimated $2 million per day, according to Page.
“That is why he have asked the federal government for funds to complete the project, Congress has authorized to deepen the channel from Catoosa to the Mississippi River from nine to 12 feet,” Page said.
Additionally, the Port has requested assistance from the state to widen State Highway 266 from I-44 east of the Port and to U.S. 169 to facilitate the movement of oversize and overweight cargo.
“It is imperative that we continue to solicit support from Congress and to demand that they take care of our nation’s infrastructure, including the inland waterway system,” Page said.