Supply Chain News / Risk & Compliance / Ports

Mississippi River Lock Closures Expand, Rail Car Loadings of Grain Decline

High water continues to keep Mississippi River Locks in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, area closed. Additional rains have resulted in a series of additional lock closures that have stopped traffic at Mississippi River Locks 12 (Bellevue, IA) through 24 (Clarksville, MO). The closures began at Lock 17 (New Boston, IL) on June 27. Lock 24 (Clarksville, MO) is expected to close on July 5.

At present, estimated re-open dates are not known. River levels in the closed section are not expected to crest until sometime after July 7. Additionally, minor flooding is slowing barge traffic on portions of the Illinois River, but ost Ohio River locks are reporting normal operations.

The Mississippi River barge system isnt the only mode of grain transportation that has encountered problems. The 4-week running average of U.S. grain car loadings has been steadily declining over the past 8 weeks since May 3, from 21,301 to 18,757 loadings. U.S. railroads originated 17,677 carloads of grain during the week ending June 21, down 12 percent from last week, up 15 percent from last year, and down 4 percent from the 3-year average. During the week ending June 7, railroads originated 17,568 grain carloads. These two weeks were the lowest for grain originations since September of last year, and well below weekly car loadings between January and March during the severe winter weather.

Bids in both the primary and secondary rail car markets have been climbing higher in recent weeks as shipper uncertainty persists as to whether there will be sufficient grain car availability following this year’s harvest. The problem could become compounded for shippers if a significant portion of last year’s harvest will still require rail service following the new harvest this fall.

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