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Moving Grain: How Do Unscheduled Lock Outages Affect Barge Traffic?

Ernst Undesser
From USDA November 9, 2017

Moving Grain: How Do Unscheduled Lock Outages Affect Barge Traffic?

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Study Examines Impact of Unscheduled Lock Outages on Barge Traffic

The National Waterways Foundation and U.S. Maritime Administration released its study, “The Impacts of Unscheduled Lock Outages,” which shows the economic impact of unscheduled lock outages at four locations along the Illinois, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers and on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Two of the selected locations, La Grange Lock and Dam (L&D) on the Illinois River and Mississippi River L&D 25, have total tonnages consisting of primarily agricultural goods. The study reports that an unscheduled closure at La Grange could lead to $2.1 billion dollar loss in farm-dependent income and a L&D 25 closure would severely stress the ability of the nation’s railroads to ship diverted corn and soybeans to export locations.

In addition, the study highlights the economic benefits of having a reliable navigation system. The Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee and the Vanderbilt Engineering Center for Transportation and Operational Resiliency at Vanderbilt University prepared the study.

Mississippi Gulf Grain Inspections Rebound but Total Declines

For the week ending November 2, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 3.30 million metric tons (mmt), down 5 percent from the previous week, down 22 percent from the same time last year, and 6 percent below the 3-year average. Total inspections of each of the three major grains decreased from the previous week.

Although Mississippi Gulf grain inspections increased 17 percent from the past week, the increase could not offset the drop in Pacific Northwest (PNW) and Texas Gulf grain inspections. Outstanding (unshipped) export sales increased for wheat and corn but decreased for soybeans.

Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota Wave HOS on Propane Haulers

On November 3, 2017, Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker issued an executive order lifting hours of service (HOS) requirements to ease a potential propane shortage. The order was due to a propane terminal shut down for maintenance, long wait times at other terminals, and a wet corn season that requires the use of propane heaters to dry most of the crops in the State.

More Grain Commentary


The order lifts HOS requirements in the process of obtaining and transporting propane and will be in effect until December 3, 2017. North Dakota amended a similar executive order on November 3 which now expires at midnight November 30. South Dakota issued a similar executive order on November 6, which expires at midnight November 20.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending October 26, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 34.9 mmt, down 21 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .348 mmt, down 4 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .811 mmt, down 37 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales were 2.0 mmt for the same period, down 8 percent from the previous week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,589 grain carloads for the week ending October 28, down 6 percent from the previous week, down 10 percent from last year, and down 6 percent from the 3-year average.

Average November shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $245 below tariff for the week ending November 2, down $129 from last week, and $254 lower than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $6 below tariff, $16 higher than last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers last week.

Barge

For the week ending November 4, barge grain movements totaled 964,848 tons, 11 percent higher than the previous week, and down 19 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending November 4, 595 grain barges moved down river, up 9 percent from last week. 1,056 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, up 21 percent from the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending November 2, 33 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 40 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-five vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 23 percent less than the same period last year.

For the week ending November 2, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $43.00 per metric ton, 1 percent less than the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $24.50 per metric ton, 1 percent less than the previous week.

Fuel

During the week ending November 6, average diesel fuel prices increased 7 cents from the previous week to $2.88 per gallon, 41 cents above the same week last year.

Full report.

Ernst Undesser
From USDA November 9, 2017