Ports & Terminals

‘Business As Usual’ At Port Of Little Rock

The Little Rock Port Authority’s executive director, Bryan Day, recently told a local TV station that despite the coronavirus, it’s “business as usual” at the port.

“At this point, from a manufacturing standpoint … we have not seen an impact,” said Day. “It’s business as usual. We know that our rail use and our barge use is consistent with where we were last year, and at least for the immediate future, we don’t see any upward or downward trends.”

Day reiterated that point to The Waterways Journal. “Of the seven largest industrial employers at the port, all said they are experiencing production as usual. No customers have canceled or postponed orders.”

He said one vendor that is not a heavy user of barges did report temporary trouble getting supplies and shut down for one day.

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Another caveat is that while the virus is, so far, not affecting production directly, the fact that schools have been closed is affecting how some employers manage their workforces. “Fifty-five percent of employees have school-aged children,” said Day. So companies have had to stagger work schedules and allow some work from home.

“But as of today, our largest industries are doing OK. The port is strong. Our docks, barges and railroads are moving.” Day meets daily with his board, and so far he is not altering the port’s outlook. The port moved a record amount of cargo last year despite unprecedented flooding, and was on track to surpass those numbers this year. “I’m not ready to change that outlook yet,” he said.

In fact, some industries and employers are busier. Among the port’s tenants are the company that makes all the Skippy peanut butter sold in the U.S. and another food company that makes a frozen rice product used in many foods. Day said they are working around the clock.

“I’m keeping an eye on the overall economy, of course,” said Day. One thing he watches is the price of oil. There is an ongoing price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Day said that once the oil price drops below a certain point, it becomes cheaper for some shippers to switch some cargoes to truck.

“But as far as manufacturing and the movement of manufactured goods goes, I’m not losing sleep over it.”