Hard Times Hitting Ports

Friday, November 21st 2008, 5:07 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, News On 6

MUSKOGEE, OK -- The number of shipments has dropped significantly at the Port of Muskogee this year. Total tonnage for 2008 is down when compared to the first 10 months of 2007.

Fewer barges are pulling into the Port of Muskogee these days. From January to October, the port is down 100,000 tons when compared to last year. That's a drop of 12%.

Port director Scott Robinson says the slump is unusual.

"Our tonnage is up year to year almost all the time.  Maybe twice in the last 17 years our tonnage has been down," said Robinson.

Robinson believes several factors have contributed to the decline.

First, high water from spring flooding made the port impassible at times and of course there's the economic crisis, which Robinson says has not made doing business easy for anyone.

"I think all of those factors probably are contributing to our tonnage being down this year for the first time in a long time," said Robinson.

There's also the collapse of SemGroup. One of the company's subsidiaries, SemMaterials, shipped its asphalt out of Muskogee.

The Port says a major reason for the drop in tonnage in the drop in business after SemGroup filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.  The company accounted for about five percent of total tonnage last year.

Robinson says in other years, the company accounted for as much as 10% of the port's shipping. He says the loss of that operation will be difficult to overcome, but he is looking forward to 2009.

"Probably wouldn't see any other so far if it weren't for other contributing factors this year, so I'm cautiously optimistic," said Robinson.

On the other hand, the Port of Catoosa is not experiencing similar problems. Shipping there is up eight percent this year.