There’s no load too big or too heavy for the Tulsa Port

August 15, 2018

The Tulsa Port and the inland waterway system allows Oklahoma companies to be competitive with fabricators located along the Gulf coast.


There are 25,000 miles of inland river systems used for transportation in the United States. Just like trucks are transporting goods on the highways and trains are transporting goods on the rail system, towboats pushing barges are transporting goods on this “highway of water.” The Tulsa Port is head of navigation for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System running from Tulsa to the Mississippi River.


One of the many types of commodities shipped on the waterway and through the Tulsa Port is something called project cargo. Project cargo is large, heavy, over-sized, high value or critical pieces of equipment. These types of products are manufactured by many companies in Northeast Oklahoma and the surrounding states. Using the river system and the Tulsa Port is vital to the success and profitability of these manufacturers. During the last three years, over seventeen thousand tons of project cargo, equipment like cracking towers and heaters for refineries, have moved through the Tulsa Port’s low water wharf.


The port’s main dock has a modern, 200-ton traveling crane that can handle the majority of standard barge cargo needs. However, project cargo equipment is often so large or heavy that it exceeds the crane’s capability. That’s when the Port’s low water wharf is used. There is no cargo too big or too heavy for the Tulsa Port because of the Port’s “Ro/Ro,” (Roll on, Roll off) or Low Water Wharf. This asset allows for heavy shipments to be moved directly on to, or off of deck barges, allowing access to the river system for the largest and heaviest project cargo.


This month, Barnhart, one of the largest heavy lift and heavy transport organizations in the United States, will utilize the Tulsa Port’s “Ro/Ro” to ship three pieces of equipment that will be installed at a refinery in Beaumont, Texas. These pieces of equipment were built here in Tulsa by Heater Specialist of Tulsa, LLC (HSI) and will ship, via water, at a combined weight of 570,000 pounds.


“Being able to transport this type of equipment via the Tulsa Port is vital to the existence of HSI and many other fabricators in the Tulsa Area,” said Alan Jackson, President of HSI. “These units could not be economically shipped via truck to the refinery due to over-the-road restrictions on weight, height and length.”


From the HSI website: Barge transportation is the key to HSI’s innovative MSA (Maximize the extent of Shop Assembly) approach, and our world class assembly facility is located immediately adjacent to the “Ro/Ro” loading facility at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.


“Shipping these types of products by barge is the only viable option; and having the Tulsa Port and the inland waterway system available makes us competitive with fabricators located along the Gulf coast,” Jackson said. “That means Oklahoma gets the jobs and tax revenues that would normally be given to Texas or Louisiana.”


About the Tulsa Port of Catoosa


The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is a singular combination of a multi-modal shipping complex and 2,000-acre industrial park resulting in an annual economic impact of $300 million to Oklahoma. The complex hosts roughly 71 companies and employs over 3,200 Oklahomans. Located at the head of navigation for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in Northeast Oklahoma, it is one of the largest, most inland river-ports in the United States. The Tulsa Port’s unique position allows companies to move millions of tons of bulk freight by barge each year at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact of rail or truck. Just a few of the bulk freight industries utilizing the Tulsa Port include portions of fertilizer distributors, industrial gas suppliers, wheat growers and manufacturers of consumer goods. The Tulsa Port is managed and operated by the City of Tulsa–Rogers County Port Authority and provides development services through Tulsa’s Port of Catoosa’s Facilities Authority. To find out more about the Tulsa Port, visit or follow the Port on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.