Missouri River Navigation Season Expected to be Normal
Normally, navigation on the Missouri River is only possible certain times of the year through a series of releases of stored water in upstream reservoirs. This year, with sufficient water levels in the reservoir system, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is scheduling full service water flow for at least the first half of the Missouri River navigation season.
Navigation opening dates are March 23 at Sioux City, IA; March 25 at Omaha, NE; and April 1 at St. Louis, MO. The Corps will determine the season ending date on July 1 after a reservoir level check.
The typical ending date is December 1 at St. Louis, where the river flows into the Mississippi River. However, that date may be extended as conditions permit. Water flows off the Missouri River are important to supplement Mississippi River levels between St. Louis and Cairo, IL.
St. Lawrence Seaway Re-Opens
On March 20, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened for its 59th season. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System extends about 2,340 miles from Duluth, MN, to the Atlantic Ocean and connects northern U.S. shippers to domestic and international markets in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Africa.
Dominant commodities moving through the system include grain (mainly wheat and soybeans), iron ore, and coal. While total volume (36.2 mmt) fell 3.4 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, grain tonnage increased 3.8 percent.
In 2016, 2.7 mmt of grain (44 percent wheat, 34 percent soybeans, and 22 percent corn) were inspected for export in U.S. ports on the Great Lakes, up 21 percent from 2015.
Grain Inspections Down but Remain Above Average
For the week ending March 23, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from major U.S. export regions reached 2.68 million metric tons (mmt), down 4 percent from the previous week, but up 39 percent from the same time last year, and 23 percent above the 3-year average.
Despite decreases the last 2 weeks, total grain inspections during the last 4 weeks are 32 percent above last year and 28 percent above the 3-year average. Corn inspections increased 15 percent from the past week, but wheat and soybeans decreased 17 and 25 percent, respectively, for the same period.
Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections decreased 13 percent from the previous week, and Mississippi Gulf inspections decreased 3 percent. Outstanding export sales (unshipped) decreased for corn and wheat but increased for soybeans.
Snapshots by Sector
For the week ending March 16, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 31.9 mmt, up 57 percent from the same time last year. Net weekly wheat export sales were .419 mmt, up 59 percent from the previous week. Net corn export sales were 1.35 mmt, up 12 percent from the previous week, and net soybean export sales were .738 mmt, up 56 percent from the past week.
U.S. Class I railroads originated 23,243 grain carloads for the week ending March 18, down 4 percent from the previous week, up 8 percent from last year, and up 5 percent from the 3-year average.
Average April shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $219 above tariff for the week ending March 23, up $416 from last week, and $394 higher than last year. Average secondary non-shuttle railcar bids/offers per car were $25 below tariff, down $38 from last week. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week last year.
For the week ending March 25, barge grain movements totaled 1,066,227 tons, 22 percent higher than the last week, and up 37 percent from the same period last year.
For the week ending March 25, 668 grain barges moved down river, up 22 percent from last week, 793 grain barges were unloaded in New Orleans, up 21 percent from the previous week.
For the week ending March 23, 44 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 16 percent more than the same period last year. Fifty-two vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 18 percent more than the same period last year.
For the week ending March 23, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain from the Gulf to Japan was $38.00 per metric ton, 1 percent less than the previous week. The cost of shipping from the PNW to Japan was $20.50 per metric ton, 2 percent less than the previous week.
During the week ending March 27, average diesel fuel prices decreased 1 cent from previous week at $2.53 per gallon, 41 cents higher than the same week last year.