Sat, 19 Jun 2021

MEMPHIS, Tennessee: Some 770 barges on the lower Mississippi River have backed up due to a damaged bridge near Memphis, which has closed the waterway.

The shutdown has slowed shipments of U.S. grain and soy while global inventories are low and prices are near eight-year highs.

News of the back up of barges caused U.S. corn futures to fall more than 5 percent.

Where the river is closed, 26 vessels with 430 barges are anchored, along with 21 vessels with 341 barges heading in the opposite direction, according to Petty Officer Carlos Galarza, a Coast Guard spokesman.

Also, 411 barges carrying crude oil, crops, and other materials were backed up in both directions.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is investigating the damaged bridge.

Tennessee officials hope to "have a decision for river traffic" in the next day or so, said Nichole Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

The Coast Guard stopped all traffic on the river near Memphis on May 11 after a fracture was discovered in the Hernando de Soto Bridge that spans the river.

Nearly all grain barges pass underneath the bridge on their way to Gulf of Mexico after being loaded in Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois or Missouri rivers, according to the Soy Transportation Coalition, an agricultural industry group.

Grain traders said they expect river traffic to resume within days. However, shippers are not booking barges for this week and next week.

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