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Catoosa tonnage drops 56 pct in July

Catoosa tonnage drops 56 pct in July


TULSA – Tonnage handled at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa plunged 56 percent in July from last year, illustrating one volatile side of Arkansas River commerce.

“To me, month to month doesn’t really mean a lot,” said Port Director Bob Portiss. “It doesn’t really give you a trend because things can happen.”

Seasonal changes, for one. Agricultural product shipments often drop in the summer, coinciding with harvests.

Due to lower agricultural shipments, Catoosa’s outbound tonnage dropped 57.8 percent from last year to 58,148 in July on 32 barges. It also fell 41 percent from June results.

But Portiss said iron and steel shipments, which have declined all year because of the recession, turned around in July to help raise inbound tonnage 11.9 percent from 2008 to 70,923 tons on 44 barges. It more than doubled June’s results.

“This generally indicates an increase in industrial activity, which is good not only for us but for the economy as a whole,” said Ed Fariss, chairman of the city of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority.

To Portiss, that inbound traffic suggests manufacturers have replenished their inventories for more production – a possible indicator of economic stabilization.

“It’s not significant enough to say, ‘Wow, look at that,’ but it does help explain the jump from June to July,” he said.

Such changes illustrate why Portiss prefers to evaluate activity from a calendar-year perspective. July’s decline brought the Tulsa Port of Catoosa’s tonnage through the first seven months of 2009 to 1.2 million, down just 4 percent from a year ago.

That represented 13 percent of all products moved on the 445-mile McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, extending from the port to the Mississippi River.

Portiss expects the port to endure another bump in August because of a technical issue – the draining of block and dam 17 and 18, which could shut down all barge traffic for up to two weeks.

“What’s important to me is where we’re at so far this year, having gone through seven months of shipping activity,” he said. “While we’re down, it’s not statistically significant.”

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