Friday, September 15, 2023

Low River Levels: The Sequel No One Wants To Watch


It’s game time says Soy Transportation Coalition executive director Mike Steenhoek, and key waterway infrastructure systems are not ready. 

“There's a couple times a year where it's game time more than others, and harvest season is one of those periods and you need to have our supply chain operating on all cylinders,” Steenhoek says. 

He continues to say major river levels, specifically those on the Mississippi River, are lower this year than they were this time last year. And he highlights how last year was a historically low water event. 

“It's a movie sequel that none of us wanted to watch, but yet we're watching it,” Steenhoek says. “It's having an impact on the efficiency of barge transportation.” 

Most notably, fewer barges are being connected to form a single unit. And barges are being loaded to lighter weight. 

“When you start diminishing that - both the depths that barges can sink to and the number of barges you can put together, that changes the economics of barge transportation which certainly impacts our competitiveness,” he says.  

Low water levels are also affecting the efficiency of another key waterway—the Panama Canal, which sees 40% of all U.S. container traffic. Since July, there have been longer wait times as low water levels force reduced traffic. 

The canal operators are limiting the number of transits that can go though and using draft limitations...more 


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