More than two months after Hurricane Katrina s devastating march across the Gulf Coast, the Port of New Orleans is plagued with backlogs.
But that hasn t resulted in a noticeable increase in business at Toledo or other Great Lakes ports.
We haven t heard anything, said LeeAnne Mizer, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. If there was something major going on in the industry, we would have heard something, but we have no definitive answer.
Experts predicted last month that Toledo and other Great Lakes ports were unlikely to pick up any shipping business because of the Gulf problems, except possibly for late in the fall harvest season, which is now.
But despite the healthy harvest in Ohio and the Midwest, which has added to the Toledo port s business, apparently little, if any, business was diverted from the Mississippi River or Gulf to the Great Lakes ports, experts said.
Because more than 6,000 ocean-going vessels a year carry grain, steel, coal, and other goods in or out of the Mississippi River, predictions soon after Katrina s Aug. 28 battering of the Gulf Coast were grim.
Export grain elevators from New Orleans to Baton Rouge were damaged, but not as much as first feared, and two-way traffic during daylight hours was restored just days after the Category 4 storm.
Barges lost in the storm meant backlogs in getting grain moved through the Port of New Orleans.
I can say that what is happening down south has created a total shift within the marketplace, said James Hartung, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
But instead of moving shipments through ports in the Midwest, many companies have opted to accept incentives from the government to move ships slightly upriver or to store their grain and move through the Gulf later.
Executives from The Andersons Inc., a Maumee agribusiness, said they have seen no noticeable increase in traffic because of disruptions caused by the hurricane.
But Mr. Hartung noted that the Toledo port has been busier. The port has handled nearly 1.1 million tons of grain this year through October, up 31 percent from the same period last year. That occurred despite a grain elevator fire in June that reduced its capacity by one third.
The main thing is that it was a good harvest, said spokesman Brian Schwartz. We re not stockpiling anything. We re moving the grain.
Three weeks after Katrina, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offered incentives to ease grain transportation, including helping to move barges upriver and finding alternative storage sites.
Spokesman Jody Peacock said the Ports of Indiana have had additional business, mostly because of stored grain, which was not the added shipping originally expected.
With the shortage of barges pushing grain prices up in some instances as much as 300 percent, he said, many companies have decided to hold on to their supplies until the market stabilizes.
Two of three sites at the Indiana port are leasing grain-storage space to those firms.