NETS News

Vol II, Issue 10  October 2006
 

Towboat Operation Analysis Using WCSC Data
NETS researchers completed an analysis of towboat operating areas in March 2006 which showed that towboats cease operating on the Upper Mississippi above L&D 25 during the winter months. That analysis, using Lock Performance Monitoring System (LPMS) data, found that some of the Upper Mississippi towboats increased their activities on the Illinois and Ohio rivers during the winter, but that total lockages on those rivers remain relatively constant throughout the year. The March report suggested a similar analysis using Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center (WCSC) data, which is not limited to canalized rivers.

The analysis of WCSC data shows that towboat utilization in the central U.S., as indicated by miles-traveled by all towboats, decreases approximately 6% during the winter. It substantiates the findings of the March report in that utilization of the Upper Mississippi fleet decreases during the winter. It also shows that while some of the Upper Mississippi towboats move to the Ohio and Illinois river systems during the winter, overall utilization of those systems is relatively constant throughout the year.

Fact Sheet
Report: Analysis of Towboat Operating Areas
    March 2006 Report

     October 2006 Addendum Presenting Findings from Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center Data

Shipper and Carrier Response to August 2004 Lock 27 Closures
Lock 27 is critical to navigation on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and normally passes more than 80 million tons of commodity traffic. Between 26 July and 10 August 2004, the main lock chamber at Lock 27, Mississippi River Mile 185.0, was closed to navigation traffic because of needed gate repairs. The auxiliary lock chamber remained available to river traffic during this period. 206 companies were selected to receive a survey. Although shippers had a wide variety of reactions to the closure, over 70 percent indicated that no change in procedures was necessary for their company. This was credited to ample advanced notification and the fact that this closure occurred during what is typically a slow time of year for them. Most respondents indicated that a change in long-term transportation strategy was not required, and that no additional costs were incurred.

The major carriers using the facility were also surveyed during this effort. All but one of the responding companies indicated that notification of the scheduled closure was adequate. The majority of companies reacted to the closure by having towboats remain in the queue, or by breaking tows to lock through the auxiliary lock. Several companies participated in industry self-help as a process that was effective in dealing with the situation.

Fact Sheet |  Report

Shipper and Carrier Response to the October - December 2005 and January February 2006 Lock 27 Closures
Between October 2005 and February 2006, the main and auxiliary lock chambers at Lock 27 were sequentially closed to navigation traffic for a planned replacement of gate operating machinery. A total of 206 companies were selected to receive a survey to identify economic costs and operational changes associated with the closure event. Survey results for these recent closures in this group were similar to that of the 2004 closure. The major carriers using the facility were also surveyed. This time all of the responding companies indicated that notification of the scheduled closure was adequate, but still reacted to the closure by having towboats remain in the queue, or by breaking tows to lock through the auxiliary lock. Several companies participated in industry self-help as a process that was effective in dealing with the situation.

Overall, industry responses to the 2005/2006 survey were very similar to those received for the 2004 survey. The majority of replies for both surveys indicated that the lock closures resulted in no change in procedures and that the advanced notice to navigation interests is valuable in helping industry prepare and alleviate significant impacts to business.

Fact Sheet |  Report

 

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