(CHICAGO) — The Upper Mississippi River reopened to barge traffic on Friday as vessels were cleared to ship through St. Louis Harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard said, and the situation quickly became a logistics nightmare as dozens of towboats and hundreds of delayed barges tried to maneuver upriver, Reuters reported.
The Mississippi River, which transports 60 percent of all export-bound U.S. corn and soybeans to terminals near the Gulf Coast, has not been fully navigable since November due to winter closures in the north and widespread flooding this spring.
Petty Officer Brandon Giles said the Coast Guard lifted its ban on northbound shipping through St. Louis harbor on Friday morning, allowing vessels to transit the busy port for the first time since a brief shipping window opened for a week and then closed a month ago.
Giles had no estimate as to when southbound traffic will resume. Barge shippers said southbound vessels may be cleared as soon as Saturday.
An armada of at least 50 towboats, each pushing multiple barges, was already converging on St. Louis Harbor, a barge broker said. The vessels may experience lengthy delays at upriver locks that have also only recently reopened from flood closures.
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