We find ourselves in unchartered waters as we approach the end of Q220. Scrap had an uphill battle for a majority of 2019 and severe flooding along parts of the Mississippi River had barges containing scrap and other various commodities delayed for extended periods of time. Entering 2020, what everyone thought was a light at the end of the tunnel, was really an on coming train. “We were prepared for the Illinois River closure, but no one could have predicted the impact of COVID-19 on the metals industry,” states Lou Plucinski, President of BL Duke.

Many importers and domestic shippers moving goods northbound from southern ports were already under pressure to get goods loaded and released in mid-April/early May. These deadlines became even more narrow for importers as orders were delayed due to COVID-19 shutdowns at overseas producers, and domestic terminal shutdowns related to the pandemic. Some anticipate the effects of COVID-19 on international shipments to be felt in late June/early July.

“We have had an extremely busy month shipping and receiving as many barges as possible prior to the closure. We anticipate an increase in rail shipments to our facility and are looking forward to supporting these shippers during the closure,” states Bri Binnie, Vice President of Business Development for BL Duke River Terminal.

Deadlines to release barges shipping northbound also came with deadlines to load and release barges southbound. In the midst of spring, severe flooding along the Mississippi River and in the Chicagoland area may narrow the timeframe to release barges for shippers as well. Most barge carriers have announced that barges originating in Chicago will need to be released between June 1st and June 15th. So far no delays regarding the upcoming Illinois River Closure have been announced by US Army Corps of Engineers.