A 1,460-ton load of steel coils shipped in last month was a weighty milestone for the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.
On June 9, Cargill Metal Service brought in the 75 millionth ton of cargo shipped through the Tulsa Port of Catoosa since the inland transportation center and industrial park opened in northeast Oklahoma 43 years ago.
“It really shows the innovative spirit that Oklahomans possess,” said Bob Portiss, director of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. “An inland port might sound implausible to some, but without this waterway, our state would not have the transportation advantages that it enjoys today.”
The steel shipment, like many other products headed in and out of the port, took a long journey. It started in Severstall, Russia, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the way to the Port of New Orleans. From there it went 600 miles up the Mississippi before connecting with the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System, which took it up the Arkansas and Verdigris rivers 440 miles to Catoosa.
The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is a 2,500-acre industrial park with nearly 4,000 employees and 70 companies.
More than 2 million tons of cargo are shipped at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa each year, including steel and agriculture products such as grain and fertilizer.
The port also has handled crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico when the spread on oil prices was large enough to make a profit on shipping up the waterway.
It’s a long road since the port’s first shipment 43 years ago, carrying 650 tons of newsprint for the Tulsa World.
Cargill Metal Services plant manager Stephen Walker said that the steel went to its plant at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, where it is flattened and cut into sheets to be sold to local manufacturers.
“Our big market for foils around here is oil and gas, that’s our No. 1 sector,” Walker said.
The port helps manufacturing thrive in the Tulsa region, with products heading up and down the waterway. According to port studies, shipping industrial products down the waterway is about 15 percent less expensive than other methods.
A waterway barge can handle about 60 coils of steel, whereas a rail car can handle about four coils and a semi-truck just one.
The port was built during the 1960s as one of the nation’s most inland waterways. The total cost was just over $21 million in 1971.
Port officials are working on upgrades to the dock that could double the capacity for dry cargo shipments. That $12.3 million upgrade project is expected to be finished sometime in late 2015.