• DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.743
    -0.027
    -1.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.978
    -0.165
    -7.7%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.916
    -0.086
    -8.6%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.446
    -0.049
    -3.3%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.006
    0.021
    2.1%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.069
    0.000
    0%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.100
    0.056
    2.7%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.597
    -0.064
    -3.9%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.444
    -0.031
    -2.1%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.181
    -0.068
    -5.4%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.553
    0.038
    2.5%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,385.190
    -18.330
    -0.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    6.800
    -0.320
    -4.5%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,385.780
    -15.500
    -0.2%
  • TLT.USA
    2.740
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
  • DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.743
    -0.027
    -1.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.978
    -0.165
    -7.7%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.916
    -0.086
    -8.6%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.446
    -0.049
    -3.3%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.006
    0.021
    2.1%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.069
    0.000
    0%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.100
    0.056
    2.7%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.597
    -0.064
    -3.9%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.444
    -0.031
    -2.1%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.181
    -0.068
    -5.4%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.553
    0.038
    2.5%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,385.190
    -18.330
    -0.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    6.800
    -0.320
    -4.5%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,385.780
    -15.500
    -0.2%
  • TLT.USA
    2.740
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
American ShipperShipping

Bad weather delays grain ships on Columbia River

This past Thursday, there were 39 grain vessels in the Columbia and Willamette rivers waiting to load, when normally, there are 12 to 15 vessels.

   Bad weather has caused unusual delays for ships loading grain on the Columbia River, according to a report in the most recent issue of U.S. Wheat Associates’ (USW) bi-monthly Wheat Letter.
   “This winter, the Pacific Northwest has seen snowstorms and record rainfall that reduced vessel loading and inbound rail service,” Steve Wirsching, vice president and director of USW’s West Coast office wrote. “A slowing of rail service for just a few weeks manifested itself into long vessel lineups and loading delays of up to three to four weeks.”
   This past Thursday, there were 39 grain vessels in the Columbia and Willamette rivers waiting to load. 33 are either anchored or at lay berth and six were at terminals. Normally, there are 12 to 15 vessels. Most grain shipped out of the Columbia River is either on handy-size ships with a 35,000-40,000 dwt capacity, or Panamax-size ships of 55,000-65,000 dwt.
   Robin Wright, the communications and administrative services manager at the Marine Exchange of Portland, Ore., said it was the largest number of grain ships she had seen in the river during her decade at the exchange.
   Rain, along with snow and other natural disasters far from the port, can create problems for trains bringing cargo from the Midwest, Wirsching said.
   “You need the right wheat or other grain to show up at the elevator at the right time so you have what you need to load on the vessel,” he explained to American Shipper.
   Overall, seven terminals are located along the Columbia and Willamette rivers. These terminals can load anywhere from about 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons of grain per hour, but Wirsching said there are reports that vessel loading efficiency is down 25 percent due to the heavy rainfall.
   Some facilities run 24 hours a day, while others run two, 20-hour shifts, he said.
   “Portland set a record in the month of February when over 10 inches of rain fell in 28 days, the most precipitation since 1996,” according to Wirsching. “When it rains this hard, exporters must close the hatches to protect the grain from excess moisture.”
   Wheat is a little slower to load than corn and soybeans, he said, because of the need to take samples to make sure the grain conforms with protein and dockage specifications.
   Delays could result in higher demurrage expenses, but Wirsching said those amounts would depend on individual contracts. He said bulk shipping contracts generally provide a window of 15-20 days for loading, after which demurrage starts accruing.

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Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.
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