Moving Grain: Panama Canal Lock Maintenance Tentatively Scheduled

    Panama Canal Lock Maintenance Tentatively Scheduled, Reducing Transit Capacity

    From September 24 to October 1, 2019, the East Lane of Pedro Miguel Locks will be closed for 8 days for scheduled maintenance. In addition, the East Lanes of the Gatun Locks have 3.5 days of maintenance and repair work scheduled, September 25-29. Because of the maintenance work, the Canal’s estimated transit capacity is 22-24 vessels per day, rather than its normal capacity of 32-34 vessels, depending on vessel mix and other factors. As a result, applications for reserved transits will be received beginning September 21, 2019.

    Panama Canal Authority Increased the Draft for Neopanamax Vessels

    On September 12, 2019, The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced that—effective immediately and until further notice—the maximum authorized draft allowed for vessels transiting through the Neopanamax locks has been increased to 14.02 meters (46.0 feet) Tropical Fresh Water. The ACP based its decision on the present and projected water level of Gatun Lake for the upcoming weeks. The ACP will continue to closely monitor the level of Gatun Lake to announce future draft adjustments quickly.

    FMC Requests Comments on Demurrage and Detention Recommendations

    The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is seeking public comment on a proposed interpretive rule on demurrage and detention under the Shipping Act. This interpretive rule would provide the public with guidance about how the Commission assesses the reasonableness of demurrage and detention practices and regulations under the Shipping Act.

    The interpretive rule describes a nonexclusive list of factors the Commission may consider in evaluating claims and complaints that come before the agency under 46 U.S.C. 41102(c) and 46 C.F.R. 545.4(d). The proposed rule contains specific guidance on how to submit comments, which will be accepted through October 31, 2019.

    Grain Inspections Increase Slightly

    For the week ending September 19, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 1.7 million metric tons (mmt). Inspections are up 2 percent from the previous week, down 35 percent from last year, and 34 percent below the 3-year average. Inspections increased because of a rebound in soybean inspections.

    Soybean inspections jumped 38 percent from the previous week, with shipments destined to Asia increasing 15 percent. However, exports of soybeans destined to China remained unchanged from week to week. Wheat and corn inspections decreased 8 and 45 percent, respectively, from the past week.

    Mississippi Gulf grain inspections increased 23 percent from the past week, but Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections decreased 11 percent.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending September 12, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 22.8 mmt. This indicates a 36-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached 1.47 mmt, up significantly from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 1.73 mmt, also up 49 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached .287 mmt, down 53 percent from the from the previous week

    Grain News on AgFax


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 18,337 grain carloads during the week ending September 14. This is a 5-percent increase from the previous week, 14 percent less than last year, and 15 percent lower than the 3-year average.

    Average October shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $169 below tariff for the week ending September 19. This is $31 more than last week and $202 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending September 21, barge grain movements totaled 501,809 tons. This is a 32-percent decrease from the previous week and 25 percent less than the same period last year.

    For the week ending September 21, 327 grain barges moved down river. This is 146 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 629 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 68 percent more than the previous week.


    For the week ending September 19, 19 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf. This is 49 percent fewer than the same period last year. Forty-three vessels are expected to be loaded within the next 10 days (starting September 20). This is 30 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    As of September 19, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $52.25. This is relatively unchanged from the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $29.75 per mt, 1 percent less than the previous week.


    For the week ending September 23, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 9.4 cents from the previous week to $3.081 per gallon. This price is 19.0 cents less than the same week last year.

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