Although final year-end numbers are not in, the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority and Watco Terminal and Port Services, operator of the authority’s port public terminal complex, are on track to see the highest tonnage rate at the port in a decade.
According to the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, preliminary tonnage figures for all commodities moving through the terminal by all modes in 2017 will potentially meet or exceed the 100,000-ton mark last reached in 2007.
Reported November commodities of 8,559 tons brought the 2017 annual total to 93,735 tons. December numbers are projected to add approximately another 6,000 tons to the yearly total.
The majority of commodity traffic moving through the public terminal is inbound by barge. Primary cargoes are steel wire rod, vermiculite and fertilizers. Occasionally, there are outbound bulk shipments of rice.
For about the past eight years, commodity tonnage by rail has been only a fraction of the size of the barge traffic, with a combination of miscellaneous inbound items like lumber, sand, metal and fertilizers amounting to only a few thousand tons annually. However, rail traffic volume this year was more than seven times greater than 2016’s due to one new terminal customer, which has already accounted for one-fourth of the terminal’s 2017 total tonnage.
An internal rail spur repair project at the public terminal earlier this year is being put to good use, according to Mike Murphy, Pine Bluff terminal manager for Watco.
“In addition to our barge numbers being up this year, we’re definitely pleased to have this significant increase in rail traffic,” Murphy said.
But Watco’s sales team is always seeking new customer leads.
“We’re going after new business every day to make 2018 an even better year,” Murphy added.