Closures and Restrictions on the Lower Mississippi River Announced
To accommodate removal of a gas pipeline, the Lower Mississippi River (LMR) will implement a series of closures and restrictions in October and November. South of mile marker 189.5 (roughly 80 miles north of New Orleans), the LMR will be closed to all southbound traffic from 7 pm to 7 am, October 17-22, October 26-31, and November 4-8.
Southbound traffic may need to proceed more slowly than usual on October 4-6, October 23-25, and November 1-3. November 9-15 are reserved dates, pending any incomplete removal operations. During the periods of closures and restrictions, southbound traffic should check with Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) at mile marker 205, and northbound traffic should check with VTS at mile marker 167.
During the same periods, tows with more than 20 barges should be aware of limited safe mooring areas south of the Interstate-10 bridge. With harvest progressing, the barge industry is already struggling with low water levels and reduced barge supply. See this week’s feature article for more information.
U.S. Waterborne Commerce Statistic Center Approves Three Principal Ports
The U.S. Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center (WCSC) recently approved three adjacent ports in the Tri-State (Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa) above Locks and Dam 26 as new “Principal Ports.” Operational since 2020 and 2021, the new WCSC-approved ports—Illinois Waterway Ports and Terminals, the Mid-America Port Commission, and the Mississippi River ports of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois—are collectively referred to as the “Corn Belt Ports.”
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They serve the largest grain-producing and -exporting region in the United States. The “Principal Port” designation means WCSC will publish data on the Corn Belt Ports’ freight terminal volumes and vessel activities, along with those of other major ports. Because WCSC publication widens recognition for ports, it may also increase their funding opportunities.
Together, the three Corn Belt Ports are expected to handle well over 40 million tons of freight annually—more than any single inland port in the Nation.
FMCSA Seeks Input on Entry-Level-Driver Training Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) seeks public comment on its plan to collect information about third-party testing programs for commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills and knowledge tests. FMCSA proposes to survey State and local government employees about whether third-party CDL testing is as accurate and compliant as jurisdictional testing.
The survey would also investigate how entry-level driver training regulations (initiated in February 2022) are affecting drivers. Currently, FMCSA seeks public comment on the proposed survey—about whether the survey is necessary for FMCSA to perform its functions and whether the estimated burden of time, effort, and funding for conducting the survey is accurate.
The agency also seeks input on how to improve the collected information, and how the burden can be minimized without reducing information quality. Comments can be submitted here by November 21, 2022.
Snapshots by Sector
For the week ending September 22, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans for marketing year 2022/23 totaled 40.47 million metric tons (mmt), down 21 percent from the same time last year and up 1 percent from last week.
Net corn export sales for marketing year 2022/23 were 0.512 mmt, up significantly from last week. Net soybean export sales were 1.003 mmt, up significantly from last week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.280 mmt, up 52 percent from last week.
U.S. Class I railroads originated 19,540 grain carloads during the week ending September 24. This was a 2-percent increase from the previous week, 10 percent fewer than last year, and 11 percent fewer than the 3-year average.
Average October shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $1,746 above tariff for the week ending September 29. This was $819 more than last week and $1,476 more than this week last year.
For the week ending October 1, barged grain movements totaled 316,850 tons. This was 44 percent higher than the previous week and 36 percent fewer than the same period last year.
For the week ending October 1, 220 grain barges moved down river—84 more barges than last week. There were 576 grain barges unloaded in the New Orleans region, 18 percent more than last week.
For the week ending September 29, 21 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—11 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting September 30), 40 vessels were expected to be loaded—25 percent fewer than the same period last year.
As of September 29, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $61.00. This was unchanged from the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $36.00 per mt, unchanged from the previous week.
For the week ending October 3, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 5.3 cents from the previous week to $4.836 per gallon, 135.9 cents above the same week last year.