The U.S. Coast Guard further restricted the size of barge tows on the Mississippi River due to problems with low water levels that have caused several groundings in recent weeks, Reuters reported. It said, effective immediately, barge tows traveling from Cairo, Illinois, to St. Louis, Missouri, were limited to no more than 15 barges, loaded or unloaded, due to continued low water levels. Two weeks prior the Coast Guard established a 180-mile long safety zone
on the Mississippi River between the two cities after several tows hit ground due to the very low water levels on the river in and near St. Louis. Those restrictions limited the draft of barges to nine feet and the size of north-bound tows to 30 barges with a maximum of 15 loaded. South-bound tows were limited to 20 barges total.
The Coast Guard maintained its draft limitations of no more than nine feet for vessels traveling between Cairo (river mile marker 0.0) and St. Louis (mile marker 184).
Meanwhile, on the Illinois River, a safety advisory remained in effect on Wednesday between mile marker 79 near the LaGrange Lock and Dam and mile marker 271 near Dresden Island Lock and Dam. Build-up of ice in some river locations to 11-12 inches thick has hampered barge movement on the river, which is usually open year-round. Forecasts for continued frigid temperatures in northern Illinois have had Coast Guard and Army Corp of Engineers officials concerned about keeping the river open to traffic.
If the river is closed to traffic, the move will complicate the delivery process of Chicago Board of Trade January corn and soybean futures contracts next week. Cash delivery is made through barge-loading elevators along the river.
Elevators are required to load corn and soybeans within three business days once shippers submit CBOT delivery certificates and loading orders. But CBOT rules allow waivers on the loading requirements under certain conditions, such as when inclement weather prevents loading.
Tows on the Illinois River since last week have been limited to eight barges total with a maximum of two barges wide and four barges in length.