Fractured Bridge Causes 771 Barge Backup, Halts Crucial Crop Exports

Fractures discovered in a Memphis bridge over the lower Mississippi River led to the closure of the waterway, causing a back-up of 771 barges and disrupting U.S. crop exports.

CNBC reports the shutdown is leading to more concerns over U.S. grain and soy shipments to export markets as there is already a lack of global inventories, prices nearing eight-year highs and the U.S. corn futures dropping more than 5% due to high prices.

Petty Officer Carlos Galarza, a Coast Guard spokesman, confirmed there are 26 vessels with 430 barges waiting to pass north and 21 vessels with 341 barges waiting to pass south in the queue at the location where the river was closed on Thursday.

A total of 411 barges carrying crude oil, dry cargo like crops and other items were halted in both directions on Wednesday (May 12.)

Garza said the Tennessee Department of Transportation must finish investigating the fractured bridge before officials can decide on whether to reopen the river.

Nichole Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said officials are aiming to "have a decision for river traffic" within the next day or so, but a timeline has not been determined and the bridge is still under inspection as of Friday (May 14.)

The Coast Guard stopped all traffic on the river between mile markers 736 and 737 after a fracture was discovered in the Hernando de Soto Bridge, which connects Arkansas and Tennessee in downtown Memphis and spans the Mississippi River.

Photo: Getty Images

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