Moving Grains: End of Upper Mississippi River Navigation Season

Corps Announces End of Mississippi River Navigation Season for St. Paul, MN

On December 3, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the end of the navigation season for the St. Paul, MN, portion of the Upper Mississippi River when the last down-bound tow of barges locked through Lock and Dam 2, near Hastings, MN. Last year, the season ended November 20, 2014. Traditionally, the last tow heading south from Lock and Dam 2 marks the unofficial end of the navigation for the St. Paul area, the northern most stretch of the Upper Mississippi River. The 2015 navigation season started March 25.

The Corps reported that there was an estimated 96.7 million tons of total freight in the St. Paul area this season, a slight increase from the 10-year average of 93 million tons. Typically, grain and oilseeds represents about half of the St. Paul barge traffic.

Long-Term Transportation Bill (FAST Act) Signed

Congress passed and President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a 5-year, $305 billion longterm transportation bill. The legislation is designed to improve the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges, transit systems, and rail transportation network. The bill reforms and strengthens transportation programs, refocuses on national priorities, provides long-term certainty and more flexibility for states and local governments, streamlines project approval processes, and maintains a strong commitment to safety.

Panama Canal Lock Maintenance Scheduled, Reduces Transit Capacity

The West Lane of the Pedro Miguel Locks on the Panama Canal will be closed for maintenance and repair work December 15-19, 2015. The estimated transit capacity of the Canal due to the maintenance work is 22-24 vessels per day, rather than the normal transit capacity of 35-37 vessels, depending on vessel mix and other factors. At this time, no major delays are anticipated.

Total Grain Inspections Down but Corn Inspections Increase

For the week ending December 3, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) for export from all major export regions reached 2.53 million metric tons (mmt), down 10 percent from the past week, 20 percent below last year, and 6 percent below the 3-year average.

Despite the drop in total grain inspections, corn inspections increased 30 percent from the past week, as shipments to Latin America increased. Soybean and wheat inspections continued to fall, decreasing 12 and 38 percent from the previous week.

Pacific Northwest grain inspections decreased 25 percent from the past week, and Mississippi Gulf inspections decreased 6 percent. Outstanding export sales for the week ending November 26 continued to increase for corn but remained lower for wheat and soybeans.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

During the week ending November 26, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 28.3 mmt, down 25 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales of .392 mmt were up 29 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were .499 mmt, down 75 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales of .878 mmt, down 25 percent from the past week.

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 18,643 carloads of grain for the week ending November 28, down 14 percent from the previous week, down 8 percent from last year, and down 13 percent from the 3-year average.

Average December shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $225 below tariff for the week ending December 3, up $25 from last week, and $188 lower than last year. Non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $138 below tariff, down $44 from last week, and $363 lower than last year.

Barge

For the week ending December 5, barge grain movements totaled 786,445 tons, down 28 percent from last week, and down 8 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending December 5, 496 grain barges moved down river, down 18 percent from last week; 864 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 27 percent from the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending December 3, 38 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 26 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-three vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 12 percent more than the same period last year.

Fuel

During the week ending December 7, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 4 cents from the previous week to $2.38 per gallon– down $1.16 from the same week last year.

Full report.


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