Moving Grain: Highwater, Ice Continue to Slow Barge Traffic

Recovery Operations at Emsworth L/D and Ice Dams on the Allegheny. Photo: Pittsburgh District, US Army Corps of Engineers

Highwater and Ice Continue to Slow Barge Traffic

According to American Commercial Barge Line, as of February 20, flood conditions have restricted barge traffic at several locks on the Ohio River to operating only during daylight hours. With more rain forecasted for the Ohio River Valley, barge conditions will likely further deteriorate for the rest of February. Ice accumulations have slowed barge traffic on the Illinois River.

However, weather forecasters are expecting warmer temperatures later next week, which may improve navigation conditions. Highwater on the lower Mississippi River has restricted barge traffic to daylight hours only through Memphis, Vicksburg, and Baton Rouge.

GTR Table 10 shows calendar year-to-date barge movements, on the locking portions of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas River, were 3.1 million tons, 11 percent lower than last year.

USDA Agricultural Outlook to Examine Agricultural Transportation Issues

On February 21-22, USDA will hold its 95th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, in Arlington, VA. The Forum will include a session on February 22, entitled “Issues in Ag Transportation: Linking Producers to Consumers”, which will examine various challenges that farmers face getting their products to market.

Topics will include: challenges in gain rail; track and rail infrastructure investments; truck driver shortages; electronic logging device and hours of service issues for truck drivers; highway funding issues; barge supply outlook; conditions of locks and dams; and funding issues for rehabilitation, modernization, and maintenance of the river system. Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach, will be the moderator.

Grain Inspections Down but Remain Steady

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For the week ending February 14, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.39 million metric tons (mmt), which is down 3 percent from the previous week, unchanged from last year, and down 11 percent from the 3-year average.

Total corn inspections, destined primarily to Asia and Latin America, jumped 25 percent from week to week. The increase in corn inspections, however, could not offset the 37 percent drop in inspections of wheat. Mississippi Gulf grain inspections increased 1 percent from the previous week, but Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections decreased 15 percent for the same time period.

During the last four weeks, inspections of grain are 10 percent below last year and the 3-year average.

Snapshots by Sector

Rail

U.S. Class I railroads originated 20,720 grain carloads for the week ending February 9, down 4 percent from the previous week, up 9 percent from last year, and up 1 percent from the 3-year average.

Average February shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $1,217 above tariff for the week ending February 14, up $750 from last week. Average non-shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car were $250 above tariff, up $181 from last week. There were no shuttle or non-shuttle bids/offers this week last year.

Barge

For the week ending February 16, barge grain movements totaled 379,048 tons, 8 percent lower than the previous week and down 34 percent from the same period last year.

For the week ending February 16, 219 grain barges moved down river, 34 barges less than the previous week. There were 744 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 21 percent more than the previous week.

Ocean

For the week ending February 14, 38 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 6 percent more than the same period last year. Sixty-nine vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days, 47 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending February 14, the ocean freight rate for shipping bulk grain, from the Gulf to Japan, was $39.00 per metric ton, 3 percent more than the previous week. The cost of shipping, from the PNW to Japan, was $22.00 per metric ton, 2 percent more than the previous week.

Fuel

For the week ending February 18, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 4 cents, from the previous week, to $3.006 per gallon, 2.1 cents below the same week last year.

Full report.


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