Market News & Headlines >> Lower Mississippi Reopens After Dredging

Two stretches of the lower Mississippi River were reopened to commercial traffic over the weekend after dredging operations deepened the shipping channel near Memphis, Tennessee, and near Stack Island, Mississippi, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday.

The lower Mississippi had been closed to vessel traffic at the two locations since at least last week after several barges and boats struck the river bottom in the drought-parched river.

Traffic remains restricted to one-way only, the Coast Guard said. Barge draft restrictions that limit the amount of cargo that each vessel can carry and curbs on the number of barges allowed in each tow remain also remain in place, shippers told Reuters News Service.

The closures disrupted the flow of newly harvested grain from Midwest farms to export terminals at the U.S. Gulf Coast, where some 60% of corn, soybean and wheat exports exit the country. Northbound shipments of fertilizer, road salt  and other goods were also stalled by the closure.

A southbound queue of 22 tow boats hauling 392 barges was still waiting to pass a section of river near Stack Island on Monday morning, but the northbound queue has been cleared, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Ryan Graves told Reuters. There were no vessels waiting to pass near Memphis, he said.