Moving Grain: California Asks FMC To Take Action on Ag Shipping Delays

California Asks FMC To Take Action on Agricultural Shipping Delays

In a letter dated January 28, the State of California asked the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to take immediate action on port congestion. The action would aim to help agriculture exporters facing rising costs and delays resulting from the surge of import traffic in the fall and winter of 2020.

The letter proposes steps, such as suspending or reducing detention and demurrage charges and canceling congestion surcharges. Other proposed remedies were better communication to exporters and truckers about timeframes to return empty containers, as well as reviewing rules regarding detention and demurrage practices.

Notice Issued on Compliance With Panama Canal Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan

Effective January 18, 2021, vessels determined to be noncompliant with the Panama Canal Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (PCSOPEP) regulations will be scheduled for transit only after satisfying several requirements. The regulations cover contingency plans for oil spills in Panama Canal waters for certain vessels.

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Grain vessels affected by the regulations—including Panamax, Neopanamax, and some Handymax—have a carrying capacity for oil, as fuel, of 400 metric tons or more. In addition to the minimum $2,500 sanction, noncompliant Panamax and Neopanamax vessels may incur additional charges because of their size.

Panama Canal is a vital outlet for grain shipped from the United States and destined to Asia.

STB Extends Deadline for Comments on Railroad Petition To Modify Determination on Revenue Adequacy

On February 4, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) extended the comment period to consider a petition by three Class I railroads. As highlighted in last week’s GTR, the railroads seek changes in STB’s procedures for determining whether Class I rail carriers are revenue adequate.

The petitioners are directed to file workpapers to replicate the analysis used in their proposal to the STB by February 22, 2021. Comments from interested parties are now due by May 17, 2021, and replies, by June 16, 2021.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending January 28, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 53.6 million metric tons (mmt). This is 11 percent higher from last week and represented a significant increase in outstanding sales from the same time last year.

Net corn export sales were 7.437 mmt, up significantly from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.824 mmt, up 77 percent from the previous week. Net wheat export sales were 0.643 mmt, up 69 percent from the previous week.


U.S. Class I railroads originated 27,482 grain carloads during the week ending January 30. This was a 1-percent increase from the previous week, 43 percent more than last year, and 31 percent more than the 3-year average.

Average February shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $81 below tariff for the week ending February 4. This was $180 less than last week and $198 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending February 6, barge grain movements totaled 793,208 tons. This was 23 percent lower than the previous week and 45 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending February 6, 476 grain barges moved down river—142 barges fewer than the previous week. There were 1,046 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 17 percent higher than the previous week.


For the week ending February 4, 45 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—50 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting February 6, 2021), 58 vessels were expected to be loaded—45 percent more than the same period last year.

As of February 4, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $46.75. This was 1 percent more than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $26.75 per mt, unchanged from the previous week.


For the week ending February 8, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 6.3 cents from the previous week to $2.801 per gallon, 10.9 cents below the same week last year.

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