Another difficulty in a season of near-record low river levels
Barge traffic on the Lower Mississippi River (LMR) has been slowed to a crawl. Blockages at mile 525 (LMR) and at mile 545 (LMR) have limited southbound and northbound barge movement. Three Terral fleet boats are caught in the impasse, delaying scheduled rock and coal deliveries.
Terral RiverService recently featured in Los Angeles Times article covering Mississippi River
This problem is one of many our company has faced this season due to low water conditions on the Mississippi. The river is 57 feet lower than this time last year. For three weeks our operations at Lake Providence Port have been completely halted as we await a dredge-dug path to the docks. This location will likely be out of operation another two weeks.
This comes at harvest time for area grain farmers, when grain elevators must be loaded. We typically service four grain elevator companies through the Lake Providence Port, and, with this port closed, we have been forced to make major adjustments. At the Madison Parish Port, near Tallulah, Louisiana, we have access to the river on a limited basis for loading and unloading barges. Three of our grain elevator customers are currently sharing time on this dock to load barges, and we are unloading barges across the riverbank to accommodate inbound product such as fertilizer and rock. Terral personnel are working 24 hours a day to keep our customers served despite these limitations.
In the last two years, the LMR has experienced its highest river in history and now close to its lowest river in history. As a result of the high water, excessive deposits of sand and silt found their way downriver, where they settled in the mouths of our ports and along the main shipping channel of the river. This has resulted in a much more severe low-water condition. The Army Corps of Engineers is working hard to keep access to the river open.
Terral is using all of its resources to cope with the harsh and unusual river conditions. Our towboat, port and management personnel are working hard to provide continual service. We have had barges stuck on sandbars, boats with wheels and rudders and hulls damaged, and many delays. We hope our customers trust our efforts to work through these adversities, and we appreciate their patience in these trying times.
Fertilizer prices presented our company with many difficulties during the spring season. Never have we seen such potential for loss, with prices remaining very high, especially in urea. The urea market is currently inverted, with the nearby price much greater than the deferred pricing. This price structure was driven by a shortage of product, which in turn drove up the nearby prices for urea. Faced with this unpredictable environment, Terral has been committed to keeping product available in our warehouses, even with the threat of loss, in order to provide for our customers. Though we failed to meet inventory demands on a handful of occasions, it was not from a lack of dedication to our customers. It is Terral’s philosophy to stay in the market for our customers at all times, to be a reliable source of products and services even in difficult economic environments.
Terral is deeply saddened by the passing of Tim Duplechain, who was taken by cancer on May 3, 2012. Tim managed our Mermentau, Louisiana operation since its opening in 2004. He was an outstanding employee; we wish we had a hundred more just like him. Tim will be missed by everyone in the Terral family. His wife, Lisa Duplechain, will continue in her position at the Mermentau office.
The newest boat in the Terral fleet is in its final stages of construction. Mid South Marine plans to complete the 1,200 HP vessel by mid-July. The new boat will be named in honor of long-time employee Kim King, who has been with the company since 1980. Kim’s career began in reception. She now works dispatch at the Lake Providence, Louisiana offices, managing Marine Logistics for many of our operations. Kim has done an outstanding job at Terral, and we are pleased to honor her in this way.M/V Kim King will operate out of the Lake Providence Harbor.
A shift in roles within the Management Team
John (Johnny) A. Martin, Jr. has moved from Marine Division Manager to Chief Operating Officer of Terral. In his place, Gabriel (Gabe) Gattle will take over as Marine Division Manager. We are pleased to announce this change and are confident the leadership and experience of both Johnny and Gabe will help facilitate further growth and profitability for the company.
Terral RiverService has commissioned the building of a new 1,200 HP harbor boat. The boat should be completed by mid-July in time to accommodate Lake Providence’s seasonally busy grain movement. This new harbor boat also will help facilitate additional tonnage from the new succinic acid plant being constructed at the port in Lake Providence by Myriant Technologies.
Terral RiverService has completed a total renovation of its fertilizer warehouse in Lake Providence, Louisiana. We are proud of the fact that we did not disrupt our customer service; the project was accomplished without interrupting the loading or receiving product. Our management team developed the plan, and we achieved it with the help of Bo Lively and Associates—an engineering firm in Monroe, Louisiana—and Timbo’s Construction out of Cleveland, Mississippi. Thanks to all who made this unique construction project successful.
We are pleased to announce the hiring of Chuck Stogner as head of Gulf Coast aggregate sales for Terral RiverService. Chuck has 30 years’ experience in the aggregate business, having worked for Vulcan, Martin Marietta, and La Farge. He has nurtured strong relationships with many customers in this area, and his understanding of barge logistics and marine operations will greatly enhance our business in the Gulf Coast region. We welcome Chuck and look forward to having him as part of our team.
Spring has come early in the Mid-South. A short winter means fieldwork is already in full swing. Prices for fertilizer have been on the rebound, and many of our locations are moving product at peak-season rates. Hopefully we will be able to keep product available to accommodate this very strong movement.
450,000 bushels of storage
Terral RiverService has completed construction of two 250,000-bushel capacity grain bins at its Tallulah, Louisiana industrial site.
A tornado hit the facility in April of last year, destroying a 365,000-bushel grain storage tank and over 6,000,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer storage. Terral rebuilt the two liquid tanks and has just completed the grain storage.
The grain storage is Brock bins with Essmueller 20,000-bushel-per-hour grain drags and leg. The bins have an elevated dump pit that can receive a truckload of grain in under three minutes.
Madison Port Facility, Tallulah, Louisiana
Record-high waters begin to recede
The Mississippi River at Greenville, Mississippi has crested and is showing a slow fall. We are hopeful we can be back in business at our Greenville operation by the first of June. Yesterday we saw a crest at Lake Providence and are expecting a very slow fall over the next few days. At the Madison Port in Tallulah, Louisiana we should see a crest in the river today. The Arkansas River is still closed, but we are confident our barges staged at Rosedale for Pine Bluff can be unloaded next week.
Mississippi River flooding limits service
Terral RiverService is currently coping with a very high Mississippi River, unlike any we have ever seen or hope to see again. Rains in the Ohio Valley and the Upper Mississippi River have created a record-high water event on the Lower Mississippi River. The Army Corps of Engineers is projecting the highest river levels in history for towns such as Greenville, Mississippi; Tallulah, Louisiana; Lake Providence, Louisiana; and Vidalia, Louisiana. All of these towns have Terral RiverService river operations.