Flooded Rivers Slow Barge Traffic, Basis Bids Drop – DTN

    Illinois River levels rose again after the area was hit by more heavy rains recently, said Tom Russell, co-owner of the Russell Marine Group.

    “That rain runoff was sufficient enough to cause the Illinois River to close again at mile 30 to 89,” Russell told DTN by email July 7. “Navigation on the Illinois River will be touch-and-go until weather has an extended dry period. The situation will have to be monitored on a daily basis.”

    On July 15, the CME announced in a special executive report that, effective immediately and until further notice, CBOT is reinstating a condition of force majeure “due to load-out impossibility at a majority of corn and soybean regular shipping stations on the Illinois River. Such shipping stations are unable to load due to high water levels and/or flooding.” This came five days after the CME had lifted a June 17 force majeure on the same river.

    On July 16, the U.S. Coast guard reopened the 50-mile stretch of the Illinois River that had been closed, but high-water restrictions remained in place, slowing barges that had been stalled trying to make their way to the Gulf of Mexico. As of that date, the force majeure remained in place.

    “High water in the other main problem area from St. Louis to Cairo on the Upper Mississippi is still showing improvement,” Russell told DTN. “The water off the Illinois River accounts for only about 10% of flows through the St. Louis Harbor. This stretch of river is open and traffic is moving with safety restrictions in place. The St. Louis Harbor is still extremely congested and will take some time for tows to get in front of the backlog of barges waiting to be picked up and towed south.”


    The Lower Mississippi from Cairo to New Orleans is rising and some areas will now reach flood stage. Barge traffic is moving, but some barge terminals have been forced to shut down due to high water. On July 17, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported on its website that the Mississippi River at the Carrollton gage has risen to 15.0 feet, prompting the Corps to “activate the second phase of flood fight procedures to monitor levees along the Mississippi River. Closely coordinating efforts with the local levee authorities, the New Orleans District will begin daily patrolling of levees along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to Venice.”

    “Increased patrols help ensure our ability to respond quickly to any problem areas that may develop along the levee system because of the elevated water levels,” the Corps added. “Also, construction projects within 1,500 feet of the levee system that were previously permitted must be shut down.”


    River flooding caused basis bids to drop for barge movement. On July 1, Gulf barge basis bids were at plus 60. As of July 17, Gulf basis barge bids were at plus 44. Barge freight was not quoted on the Illinois River most of the month because the flooding hampered movement up and down the river.

    River terminal basis has been weak to no quotes as terminals were unable to receive barges at their facilities or were unable to load barges already there. Barge freight in St. Louis to Cairo is down 15% since July 1, down 30% in the Cairo-to-Memphis corridor and down 25% in the lower Ohio corridor.

    Rail basis was also affected, as bids to St. Louis ended the week lower because congestion in the St. Louis harbor slowed down barge traffic due to high water. Freight that would have been unloaded from rail in St. Louis to move south on barges would have ended up sitting on the tracks, costing the end user demurrage.

    “River levels in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge Harbors are still high with safety protocols in place,” Russell said. “Baton Rouge will now reach flood stage, but New Orleans is expected to stay just under flood stage for now. Barge and ocean vessel traffic is moving, but a little slower than usual.”

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