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More than 80 vessels queued in and outside of the Mississippi River due to high water

Houston — High water on the Mississippi River has slammed the brakes on coal and petcoke loadings in the US Gulf, with more than 80 vessels queued, according to S&P Global Platts' cFlow maritime tracking software.

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More than 20 vessels are queued in the Gulf outside of Head of Passes, the mouth of the river, while more than 60 are at anchor in the river below Baton Rouge.

It is "absolutely" impacting operations, said one terminal operator along the river above New Orleans, noting that it's mostly impacting the ability of barges to navigate down the river.

"High water always impacts" the market, said a US-based coal broker.

A spokesman for Kinder Morgan, which operates the International Marine Terminal below New Orleans, said Friday operations there have not been impacted.

A petcoke trader said earlier this week that spot buyers are shifting to cargoes from other origins due to demurrage concerns, while FOB prices for thermal coal have dropped to the low $50s/mt, according to market sources.

The Mississippi River drains 31 states, and this year portions of the river's drainage basin are the wettest in 124 years of record-keeping, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the river.

The Corps has opened the Bonnet Carre spillway just above New Orleans to reroute some water into Lake Pontchartrain. Corps data show six of the river gauges above the spillway show the river is above flood stage, while the gauges show the river remains below flood stage through New Orleans.

Sources say the current situation is likely to be a short term event, though significant run off is expected later this spring due to higher than normal snowfall across the river's drainage basin.

-- Andrew Moore, andrew.moore@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jeffrey McDonald, newsdesk@spglobal.com