Winter Storm Jonas Recovery Underway; Expect Delays
Following the at or near record snowfall in parts of the East, many, including the ports and railroads, are digging-out and working to restore service. Ports from New York to Norfolk were closed on Monday, and in some cases Tuesday as well, to clear terminals and ensure safe conditions for truck movements. Terminals reopened to heavy truck traffic and significant delays at many of the affected ports.
In a service alert, Norfolk Southern said, “operations are extremely limited throughout the Northeast corridor, in particular between Wilmington and Baltimore. Traffic moving into the Conrail area within the state of New Jersey has been reduced to allow for recovery efforts. Areas in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are recovering slowly. Customers should expect delays of 24-72 hours on traffic moving through these areas.”
CSX stated that several of the regions it serves are also impacted and to expect delays up to 48 hours.
Winter Flood Levels Continues to Decline
River levels are returning to normal operational levels on the Upper Mississippi River, however, water levels remain high on the entire lower Mississippi River. There have been several incidents of barges hitting bridges that span the Mississippi River. The Coast Guard has issued several restrictions in those areas that limit barge travel to daylight only.
On January 10, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway, located above New Orleans, to keep river levels at New Orleans from rising further by diverting water out of the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain. The Spillway will likely continue to be operational into early February.
Grain Inspections Recede
For the week ending January 21, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, soybeans) for export from all major export regions reached 2.0 million metric tons (mmt), down 13 percent from the past week, 21 percent below last year, and 18 percent below the 3-year average.
Wheat inspections continued to fall, decreasing 45 percent from the previous week as shipments dropped primarily to Asia. Soybean inspections dropped 11 percent from the past week. Corn inspections, however, increased 3 percent from the previous week.
Pacific Northwest grain inspections dropped 15 percent from week-to-week while Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 4 percent for the same period. Current outstanding export sales (unshipped) of grain were up for corn and wheat compared to the previous week, but were down for soybeans.
Snapshots by Sector
During the week ending January 14, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 26 mmt, down 21 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales of .337 mmt were up 23 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were 1.16 mmt, up 73 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales of .909 mmt, down 14 percent from the past week.
U.S. Class I railroads originated 23,393 carloads of grain for the week ending January 16, up 11 percent from the previous week, down 7 percent from last year, and up 18 percent from the 3-year average.
Average February shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $13 below tariff for the week ending January 21, up $55 from last week, and $288 higher than last year. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers were $63 below tariff, unchanged from last week, and $63 lower than last year.
For the week ending January 23, barge grain movements totaled 606,350 tons, 3 percent higher than last week, and up 8 percent from the same period last year. For the week ending January 23, 382 grain barges moved down river, up 6 percent from last week; 630 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, down 5 percent from the previous week.
For the week ending January 21, 32 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 23.8 percent less than the same period last year. Fifty-six vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 13.8 percent less than the same period last year.
For the week ending January 21, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $23.25 per metric ton (mt), down 5 percent from the previous week. The cost of shipping from the Pacific North West to Japan was $13.00 per metic ton, down 3.7 percent from the previous week.
During the week ending January 25, U.S. average diesel fuel prices decreased 4 cents from the previous week to $2.07 per gallon–down $0.80 from the same week last year.