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Rediscovering the waterways: more Pine Bluff industries are turning to the Arkansas River.

One of the oldest forms of transportation is being rediscovered in southeast Arkansas.

In 1991, Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority facilities were the busiest they had been in five years, according to Wallace Gieringer, the authority's executive director.

The value of materials shipped to and from the Port of Pine Bluff totaled $150 million. There was a tonnage increase of 7.3 percent over 1990.

The port gives industries access to the 450-mile McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which runs from the mouth of the river in southeast Arkansas to Tulsa, Okla.

Gieringer says there is a renewed confidence nationwide in waterway transportation.

"It has proved to be the most cost-effective and dependable method of transportation for large quantities of bulk materials," he says. "Industries are rediscovering river barge transportation."

Exporting Increase

Goods are shipped from the Port of Pine Bluff to countries on five continents.

Food commodities are shipped to India.

Timber products head to Canada.

Shipments also were handled between Pine Bluff and Argentina, Japan, Luxembourg, Nepal and the Netherlands.

Products coming into and leaving the port in 1991 included corn, diesel fuel, fabricated steel, logs, machinery, milo, paper, pine bark, potash, rice, soybeans, steel pipe, wheat and wire coils.

Exports exceeded imports by about 10 percent, according to Gieringer.

"There are a lot of products in this area that meet world needs," he says.

The authority operates the 372-acre Harbor Industrial District. Located in that district is a public terminal facility owned by the authority and operated by the Pine Bluff Warehouse Co. The 20-acre facility handled 205,840 tons of inbound and out-bound products in 1991. The river-rail-truck complex serves industries that do not have their own waterfront terminals but use barge transportation.

Other companies and organizations with operations in the industrial district include Century Tube Corp., Petroleum Fuel Co., Strong Lite Products Corp., Southern Compress Inc., Trinity Industries Inc., the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Although not in the Harbor Industrial District, six other river installations are within the Port of Pine Bluff bounds. They are operated by the Bunge Corp., International Paper, Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Co., Jensen Construction, Turner Marine Service and Fly Ash Products Inc. The latter company saw completion in 1991 of a $1 million barge-loading facility near Redfield. The company markets the fly ash that is produced when coal is burned at the White Bluff Steam Electric Station.

Tommy May, chairman of the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority, says the existence of the port has been the determining factor in some industries' decisions to locate in the area.

"We will continue to attract prospects here because of their ability to use the port for shipping and receiving raw materials and finished products," he says.

Two major industries have located at Pine Bluff during the past two years.

The 400,000-SF TrefilARBED Arkansas plant began operations in May. TrefilARBED Arkansas is the first North American operation for the TrefilARBED Steelcord Division, which is headquartered in Luxembourg. It, in turn, is a subsidiary of the ARBED group, one of Europe's largest steel producers. The Pine Bluff plant manufactures steel cord for automobile tires and wire for industrial hoses.

Meanwhile, a dock and conveyor system is under construction for Tyson Foods Inc., the nation's leading poultry company, which now has a major processing facility at Pine Bluff.
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Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 9, 1992
Words:561
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