Kirby Corp., a major U.S. barge line for chemicals and oil products, said worsening river conditions across the flooded Midwest this month may cut into projected earnings more than the company said as recently as April 27.
In April, Kirby said it expected to earn 67 to 77 cents a share in the second quarter, after flood effects take away 2 to 7 cents a share. Now, however, Kirby says the impact could be even greater, but “it is not possible for us to accurately assess the financial impact of these historic events.”
Although barging is getting back to normal on some parts of the river system, such as parts of the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, flood waters on the lower Mississippi River crested just below record heights this week, and high water is still a navigational problem on the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.
As the Mississippi River flooding moves south, possible record water levels could be reached at Vicksburg and Natchez, Miss., down to Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans.
Ocean mariners worry the Coast Guard could close the southern end of the river to big ships, and barge lines could see their traffic interrupted there and on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway – a heavily traveled east-west passage along southern states.
“Current flooding conditions on the Mississippi River system and the anticipated closure of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway will have a negative impact on our inland marine transportation operations and second quarter earnings,” said Joe Pyne, Kirby’s chairman and CEO.
For now, he said Kirby’s barging west of Morgan City, La., extending over to Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas, is operating normally. But if the Coast Guard closes that waterway in the area of Morgan City, he said the closure would affect tank barging in the region. The closure could last several weeks, Pyne said, and would probably be the last area to resume normal navigation.