NEW ORLEANS — A portion of the lower Mississippi River was reopened to shipping traffic over Labor Day weekend, but ships and barges had to navigate the channel slowly to avoid various hazards created by category 4 Hurricane Ida a week earlier, including sunken barges. Movement of grain and oilseeds through the center-Gulf region continued to be severely crimped by lingering power outages at terminal elevators.
While most grain terminals in the region remained closed due to lack of power, a large Louis Dreyfus terminal resumed loading Tuesday, Reuters reported.
By Tuesday, Chicago-based ADM’s four grain elevators and port operations in the region remained without power, as was Bunge Ltd.’s export terminal and soy processing plant. Minneapolis-based Cargill’s terminal in Reserve, La., upriver from New Orleans, and a location in Westwego, La., in the New Orleans area both sustained some damage and remained without power Tuesday, as was a terminal owned by Minnesota-based CHS Inc, Reuters said.
US weekly rail traffic in the week ended Sept. 4 totaled 494,415 carloads and intermodal units, down 3% from the same week in 2020, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said in its weekly report. Carloads totaled 228,203, up 3%, and intermodal volume was 266,212 containers and trailers, down 7%, both compared to the same week in 2020.
Grain and motor vehicles/parts were the only two sectors to post a year-over-year decrease in the week. US weekly grain carloads totaled 16,711, down 27% from the same week in 2020, bringing cumulative grain carloads for the year to 808,808 for an average of 23,109 per week, up 10% from the same period in 2020. Posting year-over-year increases for the week were chemicals (up 2%); coal (up 10%); forest products (up 11%), metallic ores and metals (up 29%), nonmetallic minerals (up 9%), and other (up 6%). Two categories, food and farm products excluding grain; and petroleum and petroleum products, were within a handful of carloads from the total in the same week a year ago, thus essentially unchanged.
US railroads reported cumulative volume in the first 35 weeks of 2021, of 8,070,160 carloads, up 8% from the same point last year; and 9,749,793 intermodal units, up 12.1% from last year. Total combined US traffic for the first 35 weeks of 2021 was 17,819,953 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 10% compared to last year.
North American rail volume in the week ended Sept. 4, on 12 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads, totaled 670,791 carloads and intermodal units, down 4% from the same week a year ago, bringing cumulative continental traffic in 2021 to 24,302,809 carloads and intermodal units, up 9% compared with 2020. North American grain carloads in the week totaled 25,393, down 26% from the same week a year earlier, bringing cumulative North American grain carloads for the year to 1,196,073 for an average of 34,174 per week, up 7% from the same period in 2020.
Canadian railroads reported 73,855 carloads for the week, down 6%, and 71,171 intermodal units, down 3% compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 35 weeks of 2021, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,191,208 carloads, containers and trailers, up 6%. Canadian grain carloads in the week totaled 6,985, down 4% from 2020, bringing the 2021 cumulative total to 312,413 grain carloads for a weekly average of 8,926, up 2% from the same period in 2020.
Mexican railroads reported 17,989 carloads (up 2.7% compared with the same week last year), and 13,361 intermodal units (down 13.2%), bringing the 2021 cumulative traffic total to 1,291,648 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 6% from the same point last year. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 1,697, down 6% from the same week a year earlier, bringing the total for 2021 thus far to 74,852 for a weekly average of 2,139, down 10% from the same period in 2020.
The average September shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers per car in the week ended Aug. 26 were $15 below tariff, up $35 from the prior week and $819 lower than the same week in 2020. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers in the week, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service said in its weekly Grain Transportation Report.
US barged grain movements totaled 289,938 tons in the week ended Aug. 28, down 28% from the previous week and down 69% from than the same period last year, the US Army Corps of Engineers said.
In the same week, 185 grain barges moved down river—69 fewer barges than the previous week, according to the Corps and AMS.
Ocean freight activity
In the week ended Aug. 26, 21 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf (including the Mississippi, Texas and East Gulf regions), down 9% from the same period last year, the AMS said.
In the 10 days beginning Aug. 27, the AMS expected 34 vessels to be loaded, a 35% decrease from the same period last year.
The rate for shipping on tonne of grain from the US Gulf to Japan on Aug. 26 was $82, a 1% increase from the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $44.50 per tonne, up 1% from the previous week.
The average on-highway diesel fuel price in the week ended Sept. 6 was $3.373 per gallon, up 0.034¢ from the previous week, and up 0.938¢ from the same week a year earlier, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The average on-highway diesel fuel price in the week ended Sept. 6 by region in dollars per gallon, with change from a week earlier and a year earlier:
Region Sept. 6 Weekly Yearly
East Coast 3.332 +0.026 +0.821
New England 3.285 +0.014 +0.673
Central Atlantic 3.483 +0.009 +0.794
Lower Atlantic 3.240 +0.039 +0.870
Midwest 3.284 +0.043 +0.963
Gulf Coast 3.104 +0.044 +0.920
Rocky Mountain 3.645 +0.017 +1.267
West Coast 4.020 +0.023 +1.056
West Coast less California 3.664 +0.019 +1.080
California 4.316 +0.025 +1.040