NEW YORK Steel raw
materials shipments along the Mississippi River are facing
severe delays due to low water levels, and the situation is
likely to worsen if action is not taken, according to market
Unless the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers takes emergency action to ensure water levels
dont fall below what is necessary to support inland
waterway navigation, barge traffic along the Mississippi River
between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill., could come to a halt around
Dec. 10, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries told
members this week.
"The problem is due to a
combination of low water levels, the annual operating plan of
the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers to reduce flow into the
Mississippi from the Missouri River, and some rock formations
in the water that need to be removed to allow passage of the
barges during low water conditions," ISRI said.
Pig iron and scrap substitutes
from New Orleans have to use the Mississippi River to move
loads north at the same time southbound loads pass through the
areas around St. Louis and Cairo, sources said.
"Only so many barges can be
moved at one time, so expect big delays. Scrap metals flow both
directions just because of the type of mills that are located
in the rivers," one logistics source said.
"A lot of scrap moves in barges,
along with everything else," he added. "Barges move at least 40
percent of scrap in the region and is now being changed over to
move by rail or truck, or just not moving. This has and will
shake up the balance of transportation equipment in
Sources said the only solution
is for the Army Corps to change its operating plan to keep
water flows from the Missouri going.
There is a potential problem as
scrap flows southward from St. Louis, a second source said.
"(One mill), in particular,
which buys a large quantity of scrap via barge, will need to
search for alternative tons. This could disrupt other districts
as (the mill) redirects some scrap originally destined for
their other plants. It is not clear if resolution will occur in
time," he said.
Water levels on the Ohio River
at Cairowhere it meets the Mississippidropped to
10.4 feet on Wednesday afternoon from 11.14 feet on Nov. 23.
The water level is projected to drop to 9 feet by Friday
afternoon, sources said. Barges and tugboats require a 9-foot
draft to navigate (
amm.com, Nov. 27).
On the Ohio, Lock 52 will be
closed for 12 hours per day for the next four weeks, but it
will operate 24 hours on weekends.
The Illinois River, which feeds
into the Mississippi north of St. Louis, is also flowing
slightly less than normal, with delays expected in certain
"For many months, our difficulty
in accessing the riverordinarily a routine element in our
sales programhas created serious challenges for us as a
supplier to mills which typically prefer to source scrap along
the inland waterways due to favorable freights," another third
source said. "The additional loading costs and dead freight
charges resulting from seriously low water levels has resulted
in significantly reduced utilization of this mode of transport,
putting further pressure on the already higher rail freight
treatment of scrap."