Barge availability is still tight in the U.S. due to large cargo volumes of southbound grain, and northbound volumes of steel and salt, according to the Dec 4 MID-SHIP report.
The US Department of Agriculture reports rates for southbound grain have dropped to 426 percent of tariff after reaching 800 percent or more in November. Northbound barge rates were at historical levels in November but are now trending downward. MID-SHIP expects prices to remain elevated well into first quarter 2015 and contract levels to be higher than 2014.
Berth congestion for bulk vessels on the Mississippi has been minimal but break bulk terminals have been very active says MID-SHIP. Delays of 2-3 weeks have been seen at terminals in Houston due to berth congestion from strong steel imports.
Winter storms in the Midwest and Eastern USA caused early icing problems on the Illinois River and Upper Mississippi that has since resolved. Another harsh winter is expected to disrupt barge traffic.
In the seabourne markets, Capesize rates have been dropping in part due to weakness in the iron ore market. Both Panamax and Supramax rates increased over the past the three weeks.
In the Handysize Market the US Gulf tonnage is tight as end of the year shipments are completed. The average rate for the six time charter routes was up 10 percent to $7,241 as of Dec. 4.
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