DOT Announces $1 Billion in Funding for Surface Transportation Investments
In February, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $1 billion to be awarded for national infrastructure investments through its Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (or “BUILD”) transportation grants program.
The fiscal year 2020 funds are competitively awarded for surface transportation infrastructure projects that will have a significant local or regional impact. Eligible projects include road and bridge, rail, port, and intermodal investment.
Fifty percent of BUILD grant funding will go to rural projects that deliver positive benefits for rural communities, consistent with a DOT initiative to prioritize rural economic opportunity. Applications for BUILD Transportation grants are due May 18, 2020.
Surface Transportation Board Announces Final Rule on Demurrage Regulation
On February 28, the Surface Transportation Board announced a final rule clarifying the regulation of demurrage. The final rule amends regulations governing the class exemptions for certain commodities.
For these commodities, the final rule clearly states that demurrage continues to be subject to Board regulation. Additionally, the final rule partially revokes the class exemption that currently covers certain non-grain, agricultural commodities: the exemption will no longer apply to the regulation of demurrage. The final rule will become effective April 3, 2020.
Ports Begin Enforcement of Bunker Fuel Carriage Ban
Ports in the United States and around the world have tightened their oversight and started enforcing the IMO 2020 low-sulfur fuel regulation as of March 1. The regulation lowered the maximum allowed sulfur content of fuel from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent and officially took effect January 1. However, ships were given a grace period while the industry transitioned.
As of March 1, any ships burning or merely storing high-sulfur, noncompliant fuel may be detained and penalized. Penalties may include a “Notice of Violation” by the Coast Guard and fines between $2,000 to $10,000. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may assess civil penalties of over $75,000 per violation per day, according to American Shipper.
Snapshots by Sector
For the week ending February 20, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 22.2 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a 34-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached 0.865 mmt, down 31 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.339 mmt, down 31 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached 0.382 mmt, up 10 percent from the previous week.
Grain News on AgFax
U.S. Class I railroads originated 18,909 grain carloads during the week ending February 22. This was a 3-percent increase from the previous week, 13 percent less than last year, and 10 percent lower than the 3-year average.
Average March shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $160 below tariff for the week ending February 27. This is $19 less than last week and $2,222 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.
For the week ending February 29, barge grain movements totaled 408,595. This was a 3-percent increase from the previous week and 71 percent more than the same period last year.
For the week ending February 29, 263 grain barges moved down river—10 barges more than the previous week. There were 479 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 9 percent fewer than the previous week.
For the week ending February 27, 31 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—6.1 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting February 28), 39 vessels were expected to be loaded—41.8 percent fewer than the same period last year.
As of February 27, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $43.50. This was 1 percent more than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $23.50 per mt, 3 percent more than the previous week.
For the week ending March 2, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 3.1 cents from the previous week to $2.851 per gallon, 22.5 cents below the same week last year.