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Grain Barge Backup Begins to Ease on Mississippi

In Mississippi, the lines of barges and vessels is down to fewer than 900

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot

A backup of more than 2,000 boats and barges on the Mississippi River is being cleared as two closures along the waterway reopened on Sunday, reports Bloomberg.

Low water levels had halted commercial shipments of commodities, including recently harvested corn and soybeans, amid prolonged local drought.

By Sunday, the river had reopened at two choke points: near Stack Island, MS, and near Memphis, TN, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Last week, the Coast Guard had responded to grounded vessels in these areas.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging near Stack Island to make water levels deeper.

Currently, there is no line of vessels near Memphis, though there are restrictions there to one-way traffic.

In Mississippi, the lines of barges and vessels north and south is down to fewer than 900, the Coast Guard said.

Low water conditions causing issues

Las week around 100 tow boats hauling some 1,600 barges were lined up for miles waiting to pass through one trouble spot near Lake Providence, LA.

Drought had dwindled water levels by so much that vessels were running aground.

Last week, the largest U.S. barge operator warned customers it wouldn't be able to make good on deliveries.

Ingram Barge Co. declared force majeure in a letter to customers due to “near-historic” low water conditions on the Mississippi, reported Bloomberg.

The latest USDA Grain Transportation Report noted 1,890 grain barges have unloaded in New Orleans since September 1, about 39% fewer than the five-year average.

“The tight barge supply is problematic for grain shippers heading into harvest,” the report stated. “Unless barge supply improves, the increased demand for barges from grain shippers during harvest will likely put even more upward pressure on barge rates.”

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