Trade in some of the most important commodities in America, such as coal and grain, stand to suffer from the stoppage of transport on America's main aquatic artery.
"For the coal that travels on the Mississippi, there could be impacts and delays in getting it to consumers in a timely way," Debra Colbert, senior vice president of Waterways Council, Inc., told Discovery News. "It will cost more to ship it by rail and or truck and consumers will pay more for heating and electricity as a result."
The exact effect on prices is impossible to estimate at this point, Colbert said.
Delays would affect 3.8 million tons of coal, according to the shipping organization's press release. Five million barrels of crude oil would be delayed, which may necessitate the import of $545 million worth of foreign crude. All together, $7 billion in commodities may be delayed.
Delays and cost increases in American grain shipments could affect the global food supply.
"River barge shipping is all geared to moving bulk grain exports for (livestock) feed uses overseas," said Bruce Abbe, executive director of the Midwest Shippers Association. " A huge share of the global market is served by American agriculture. Barge or water shipping is considered the most cost- efficient means for moving large quantities of bulk grains.