USA - Will It Be Deja Vu on the Lower Mississippi River This Fall?

The memory of last fall still lingers of when the Lower Mississippi River dropped to a record low at Memphis, Tennessee, stalling barge traffic right in the middle of harvest. Now, one year later, levels at Memphis are stuck below zero gauge and causing concern of a repeat of 2022.

Besides Memphis, the Mississippi River at St. Louis is at minus 1.02 feet on Aug. 28 and is forecast to reach minus 3.3 feet by Sept. 1. At these low levels, safety restrictions are now in place.

For now, current levels for the river shippers means that barge drafts have been cut to 10 feet, 6 inches and, in some cases, tow sizes are reduced. Shippers will have to load less product but pay the same freight for a full barge and if there is a reduction in tow size, less product gets to destination via one shipment.

Barge freight has started to rise with September numbers bid at 775% of tariff bid against offers of 800% and October is bid 800% against offers of 850%. To calculate the barge rate in dollars per ton, multiply the rate quote by the benchmark and divide by 100. Each location has a different base rate (from 1976). As an example, an 800% tariff for St. Louis barge grain would equal 8.00 times the benchmark rate of $3.99, or $31.92 per ton.

See all tariff benchmark rates here: Explanation of Barge Rates

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