Is Tulsa's port deep enough?


There has been some discussion about Boeing's need for a deep-water port in close proximity to their proposed 7E7 assembly facility.

The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System, which terminates at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, has a depth of 9 feet and a minimum width of 250 feet. In other words, a ship's draft (how much it hangs below the waterline) can't be greater than 9 feet, or it may drag bottom.

I found the following quote on the website of Oklahoma Magazine, in a story about our port, with quotes from the port's director, Robert Portiss:

There are two kinds of ports, Portiss explained: deep draft ports that can handle large, keeled ships; and smaller inland ports, that handle flat-bottomed barges and towboats. Because of the relative shallowness of the Arkansas River System, oceangoing vessels must dock in places like Brownsville, Texas or New Orleans, Louisiana and unload their cargo to river-bound craft before it can be shipped inland to Catoosa or Muskogee, Oklahoma's other port.

That's a key distinction. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a deep-water port is a requirement, but they also quote Mike Bair, Boeing senior vice president over the 7E7 program, who says that it's only important to have a way to get the very large aircraft parts from the deep water port to the plant:

One of Boeing's 7E7 site-selection criteria is for a deep-water port where these large pieces can be brought in by ship.

Bair would not say how close the port needs to be to the assembly site.

But barges could be used to take the parts from the port along a river to the assembly site. Rail could also be used, Bair said.

"There are obvious places you can go up river -- the Mississippi is big and deep," Bair said.

Hauling big airplane pieces from a port by train would pretty much require a straight shot.

"If we had to go through tunnels or around corners, that gets to be a problem," he said.

"So it's access to a deep-water port. And access means we can reasonably get the parts up and around to where the site is."

That doesn't rule out Tulsa, but transporting parts to Tulsa would require two transfers -- oceangoing ship to barge at New Orleans, barge to rail at Catoosa for the final leg of the journey to the plant at the airport -- instead of a single transfer for a plant on a rail line with a direct connection to a deep-water port. Three Japanese companies are on the shortlist to supply major components for the 7E7. That may put us at a disadvantage, as parts from Japan would have to travel through the Panama Canal, before turning back north and west to New Orleans, there to be transferred for the barge journey upstream. A west coast site would be a straight shot from Japan.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 26, 2003 3:23 PM.

Dilbert on corporate welfare was the previous entry in this blog.

Where's the music in downtown? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]