On Thursday, a traffic jam on the lower Mississippi River grew to 771 barges after a broken bridge near Memphis blocked the waterway, which is critical for U.S. grain exports.
Concerns were raised over exporting US grain and soy to export markets at a time when global stockpiles are low and rates are near eight-year highs. Corn futures in the United States fell more than 5% as a result of the high prices.
According to Petty Officer Carlos Galarza, a Coast Guard spokesperson, at the point where the channel is closed, 26 ships with 430 barges are waiting to pass north and 21 vessels with 341 barges are hoping to pass south.
A total of 411 barges transporting crude oil, dry cargo such as crops, and other products were backed in both lanes the day before.
Before the river can be reopened, the Tennessee Department of Transportation must complete its investigation of the bridge, according to Galarza.
Tennessee officials expect to “have a recommendation about river traffic” within the next day or two, according to Nichole Lawrence, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman. She mentioned that no timetable has been established and that the bridge is still being inspected.
The Coast Guard shut down all river traffic near Memphis on Tuesday between milepost 736 and 737 due to a crack in the Hernando de Soto Bridge, which crosses the river.
Per the Soy Transportation Coalition, an agriculture industry organization, almost all grain barges would travel under the bridge on their way to Gulf of Mexico export facilities near New Orleans after being filled along the upper Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, or Missouri rivers.
Grain traders expect river traffic to restart within a few days. Nevertheless, shippers are not securing barges for this week or next week because the shutdown has left them unsure whether or not barges would be open, according to barge insiders.