Several Locks Closing on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers
Multiple lock facilities are currently closed or plan to close before the end of the year to do repair work or accommodate the winter freezes. On the Mississippi River, Locks 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 15, 18, 24, and 25 will all shut down through mid-March. Lock 19 closed December 15 to repair a guard gate and will reopen on February 28. Because large frozen portions of the river above these locks are already inactive for the winter, these closures should have minimal effect on grain traffic.
Lock 27, south of St. Louis, will close for 9 hours on December 19. Several locks in the New Orleans region will have closures or size restrictions that can slow traffic, particularly for large tows. Two lock facilities on the upper Ohio River will also close, though food and farm products represent only a small share of traffic in that span of the river.
Southern California Ports Seek Comments Regarding a Proposed “Clean Truck Fund” Rate
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach seek public comment on a draft economic study conducted to help establish a “Clean Truck Fund” rate. To help the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles meet a goal of a zero-emissions truck fleet by 2035, the rate would fund assistance for purchasing cleaner, low-nitrogen oxide (NOx), and zero-emissions heavy trucks.
The draft economic study examines the rate’s potential effect on cargo diversion and the local drayage truck industry. The Clean Truck Fund rate is expected to be instituted later in 2020 after a vote from the Boards of Harbor Commissioners.
The new fee would apply to cargo owners that hire trucks to transport loaded containers, with rebates if they use trucks that meet low-NOx or zero-emissions standards
Wheat and Corn Drive Grain Inspections Higher
For the week ending December 12, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 2.53 million metric tons (mmt). Total grain inspections were up 11 percent from the previous week, down 4 percent from last year and down 13 percent from the 3-year average.
The week-to-week increase in inspections was driven by a 38-percent increase in wheat inspections and a 40-percent jump in corn inspections. Soybean inspections decreased 7 percent from the previous week.
Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain inspections increased 11 percent from the past week, and Mississippi Gulf inspections increased 12 percent. Although Texas Gulf grain inspections represented a smaller share of the total, weekly inspections in the region increased 86 percent, with year to date inspections up 71 percent from last year because of a strong demand for wheat.
Snapshots by Sector
For the week ending December 5, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 22.36 mmt. This represented a 21-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached .874 mmt, down 60 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 1.05 mmt, up 54 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached .503 mmt, up 120 percent from the from the previous week.
U.S. Class I railroads originated 23,262 grain carloads during the week ending December 7. This was a 14-percent increase from the previous week, 1 percent more than last year, and 2 percent fewer than the 3-year average.
Average December shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $431 below tariff for the week ending December 12. This was $206 more than last week and $169 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.
For the week ending December 14, barge grain movements totaled 708,597 tons. This was a 36-percent decrease from the previous week and 17 percent less than the same period last year.
For the week ending December 14, 453 grain barges moved down river—260 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 685 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 22 percent fewer than the previous week.
For the week ending December 12, 32 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—3 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting December 22), 44 vessels were expected to be loaded—33 percent fewer than the same period last year.
As of December 12, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $47.25. This was 1 percent more than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $25.75 per mt, 2 percent more than the previous week.
For the week ending December 16, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 0.3 cents from the previous week to $3.046 per gallon, 7.5 cents below the same week last year.