Barge traffic rebounded at the Port of Muskogee in October, the first full month the inland navigation channel was open after being shut down for five months.
Tallies released Tuesday by the Muskogee City-County Port Authority showed a surge in the amount of cargo being shipped to and from the local port by truck, narrowing the gap for year-to-date totals compared to a year ago. The port's rail shipments recorded in October dipped for a second consecutive month and down significantly when compared with the same period in 2018.
Port Director Scott Robinson said near-record flooding in late May and early June along the Arkansas River cost local industries located along the waterfront an estimated $94 million in damages. Much of that, he said, can be traced to additional costs of shipping commodities handled at the port and consumed by local industry to manufacture goods.
"There was all kind of damage, but a lot of that — the biggest part — was additional transportation costs by not having barges available and having to truck that product in," Robinson said. "A lot of those industries reported have $6 (million) to $10 million worth of additional transportation costs."
After flows exceeding 738,000 cfs swept two barges from the Port of Muskogee into the structure at Lock & Dam 16, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drained the Webbers Falls pool to accommodate the extraction of the sunken vessels. The Corps re-opened the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System to restricted barge traffic just as September came to a close, and dredging crews continued to clear channels in October where shoaling had occurred.
Imported and exported goods shipped by barge in October totaled 38,009 tons, which represents a decrease of 19.23 percent — or 17,310 tons — from the 45,318 tons shipped during the same month in 2018. Barge shipments this past month were were the lowest for any October since at least 2012.
October barge cargo consisted of imported commodities that included feldspar, rebar, fertilizer, nepheline syenite, clay, barite and wire rod coils, which arrived on 26 barges. The only export was calcine coke.
Rail tonnage totaled 15,557 tons, a 60.19 percent — or 9,363-ton — decrease from the 24,920 tons shipped during the same period a year ago. Year-to-date rail cargo totaled 211,302 tons, down 13.10 percent from the 238,985 tons reported during the first 10 months of 2018.
Imported commodities that arrived in October by rail consisted primarily of steel coils, asphalt, steel, pig iron, Canada sand and oats, which arrived along with four other commodities on 152 rail cars. The only commodities that left the Port of Muskogee by rail in October were pipe and petroleum coke, both of which left the port on 16 cars.
October truck cargo tracked at the Port of Muskogee totaled 52,901 tons, down 38.67 percent, or 20,458 tons, from the 73,359 tons shipped by truck in October 2018. Year-to-date truck tonnage totaled 646,333 tons, down 0.65 percent, or 4,224 tons, from the 650,556 tons shipped by truck during the first 10 months of 2018.
Commodities imported by truck consisted primarily of asphalt, spent refractory material and pipe, which arrived along with nine other commodities on trailers pulled by 465 trucks. Exported commodities included steel coils, asphalt, steel, feldspar, nepheline syenite and clay, which left the port along with 14 other commodities on trailers pulled by 4,260 trucks.