Shipping Traffic Builds on Mississippi as Barge Damages Lock

By MarEx 2013-01-23 14:43:00

A vital stretch of the Mississippi River has been reopened to shipping traffic today after emergency repairs were made to a lock damaged by a barge. The near crisis was resolved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), who initially anticipated the repairs could take days.

This week's closure of Lock and Dam 27 near Granite City, Illinois was unrelated to the drought. It was instead forced after a barge damaged a gate on an auxiliary lock early Tuesday morning, causing a traffic jam that increased immensely before the lock reopened 17 hours later.

Today, 85 barges and 15 vessels were waiting to pass through — as opposed to the 142 barges and 19 vessels that were idled during the traffic jam's peak.

The Mississippi is expected to stay open due to months of effort because a 9-foot-deep channel — the minimum for barge traffic — can be maintained even at minus-7 feet on the river gauge, reports Fox News. However, the U.S. Coast Guard makes the final decision on whether to close stretches of the river; weight or size restrictions on barges may be tightened.

Experts have noted that while reducing cargo weight helps barges ride higher, shipping costs increase because more barges are required to move the same amount of cargo and tow boats go through more fuel because more trips become necessary.