Ports & Terminals

Arkansas River Tonnage Up Despite Steel Slowdown

New figures released by the Corps of Engineers show that overall barge tonnage on the Arkansas River is up by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period last year. 

Inbound shipments coming from outside the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System totaled 1.059 million tons during the first quarter, which is down 8.2 percent compared with the same period in 2021. 

Outbound shipments totaled 869,160 tons, up 0.7 percent compared with the same period in 2021. But internal shipments between points on the river totaled 827,847 tons, up 57.6 percent compared with the same period in 2021.

Bryan Day, executive director of the Port of Little Rock, said barge loads of coiled steel have disappeared. In an average year, the port handles between 300 and 400 barge loads of coiled steel a year, but there have been none this year so far. Day attributes this to the regulatory and other roadblocks being put in the way of oil and gas pipeline construction by the Biden administration, since most of the coiled steel on the rivers was used for pipeline construction. 

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But Day said the other commodities the port moves are up: grain, aluminum ingots, wet cake and rock and gravel. 

Marty Shell, CEO of Rive Rivers Distribution, was quoted by local media sources as saying barge demand was high, and river traffic would be even higher if more barges were available.