Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Upgrades in Catoosa, Panama Could Help Shippers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Upgrades in Catoosa, Panama Could Help Shippers

Article excerpt

TULSA - The Port of Catoosa's upgrades came at an opportune time for waterway shipping, just weeks ahead of the Panama Canal's expansion, economist Jonathan Willner said.

"The enhancements are really interesting, particularly in regard to large container shipments," the Oklahoma City University professor said. "The Panama Canal hasn't been able to deal with large container ships, and now it will."

"It used to be that if you wanted to send something from Oklahoma to Asia, you had to send it overland to the coast so it could be loaded on a ship. But now that the canal can handle bigger boats, it might actually help Catoosa," he said.

After more than two years of construction, the port unveiled $11.7 million in dock renovations this week. The project, which was partially funded through a $6.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, replaced 26,000 square feet of concrete dock space, added about 6,000 feet of rail, and upgraded a bridge crane to handle 200 tons, the largest loading crane on the McClellen-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The crane moves barge loads between truck or rail car and the river.

"Nobody can say they know what's going to happen, but I have my own opinions based on congestion problems that already exist with land-surface modes of transportation," Catoosa Port Director Bob Portiss said. "We've come to the conclusion that we might not change anything dramatically, but we'll be better positioned for business growth if we have a wide-open apron. We're geared up now for whatever may come our way in the future."

The port's board of directors had a similar attitude regarding changes on a much larger scale, Portiss said. Although the connection might seem like a stretch at almost 2,600 nautical miles - 1,100 miles from Tulsa to the Port of New Orleans via a Verdigris River connection to the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, and 1,470 miles from New Orleans to Panama - goods loaded at Catoosa have a fairly easy path to the Panama Canal, Portiss said. …

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