Arkansas River commercial tonnage up 3% through June

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 566 views 

Commercial tonnage shipped on the Arkansas River in the first half of 2022 is up 3% thanks in large part to a 22% increase in sand, gravel and rock shipped and a continued gain in shipments between ports on the river, according to figures from the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

June tonnage of 995,323 tons was up 19.5% compared with June 2021.

Inbound shipments – those coming from off the river system – totaled 1.864 million tons during the first six months, down 14% compared with the same period in 2021. Outbound shipments totaled 1.804 million tons, up 5% compared with the same period in 2021. Internal shipments – those sent between port operations on the river – totaled 1.601 million tons, up 29% compared with the same period in 2021.

Bryan Day, executive director of the Port of Little Rock, said Logistics Services Inc. (LSI), the port’s stevedoring company has been busier so far in 2022 than in 2021.

“June’s activity across the port’s docks was very strong. LSI (Logistics Services Inc.) worked 47 total barges with a little over 71K tons of various commodities. Year-to-date 204 barges with 305K tons have been handled which is just above year-to-year 2021 from 202 barges and 301K net tons,” Day told Talk Business & Politics in an e-mail interview.

Day also said expectations are for a busy second half of the year.

“LSI expects the docks to increase even more in July, and certainly for the rest of 2022. LSI is forecasting to work over 400 barges this year, a jump of over 20% in volume from the prior year,” Day noted. “LSI expects volumes to pick up throughout the third quarter and is anticipating a much stronger second half of 2022 compared to the first half, and certainly stronger than 2021 in activity.”

Following are the top five shipment categories by tonnage for the first six months of 2022, with the percentage change from the same period in 2021.
• Sand, gravel, rock: 1.776 million tons (up 22%)
• Chemical fertilizer: 1.025 million tons (down 15%)
• Wheat: 557,500 tons (up 10%)
• Iron & steel: 554,7000 tons (up 3%)
• Soybeans: 368,022 tons (down 26%)

Tonnage in 2021 totaled 10.696 million tons, up 4% compared with 2020. Inbound tonnage was up 12%, outbound was down 8% and internal was up 8%. River traffic in recent years has struggled through historic flooding and an economic slowdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. River tonnage in 2019 totaled just 8.48 million tons, down 22% from 2018. But tonnage was up 22% in 2020 to 10.322 million tons.

The Arkansas River system is 445 miles long and stretches from the confluence of the Mississippi River to the Port of Catoosa near Tulsa, Okla. The controlled waterway has 18 locks and dams, with 13 in Arkansas and five in Oklahoma. The river also has five commercial ports: Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Fort Smith, Muskogee, Okla., and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma.