Mississippi Section Shut to Traffic After Vessel Grounding

The U.S. Coast Guard closed traffic on a section of the Mississippi River early today after a barge grounded because of shallow water.

The river was closed on an 11-mile stretch near Greenville, Mississippi, between mile markers 524 and 535, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets, a New Orleans-based public affairs officer for the Coast Guard, said in a telephone interview. The vessel has been floated and the guard is inspecting the channel to ensure safe passage, he said.

After an earlier grounding, the river was opened yesterday and 33 northbound vessels moved through the section, Tippets said. There are 31 northbound vessels and 72 southbound vessels waiting to pass the area.

The section was opened yesterday at 4 p.m. and shut after the grounding early today, Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, said in a telephone interview.

The drought across the Midwest has left the Mississippi River system, which includes the Ohio and Missouri rivers, with low water levels that have impeded and delayed barge traffic.

“They are closing the river in some areas,” said Steve Holcomb, vice president of investor relations at Kirby Corp., a Houston-based company operating a fleet of inland tank barges. “We’re carrying a little less product than we historically carry, but we’re still making our deliveries.”

Kirby primarily moves petrochemicals along with crude oil, Holcomb said.

Marathon Garyville

Marathon Petroleum Corp. ships about 50,000 barrels a day of heavy Canadian oil by barge from Patoka, Illinois, to its refinery in Garyville, Louisiana, Garry Peiffer, the company’s executive vice president of corporate planning and investor and government relations, said in a conference call July 31.

Shane Pochard, a Findlay, Ohio-based spokesman for Marathon, declined to comment on refinery supply in an e-mail.

Inland waterways carry 60 percent of the nation’s grain exports, 22 percent of domestic petroleum and 20 percent of coal used to generate electricity, Ann McCulloch, a spokeswoman for the National Waterways Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

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