NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Mississippi River reopened to alternating one-way traffic early Wednesday morning as clean-up operations continued following a barge accident north of Memphis, Tennessee on Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
A spokesman for the USGC said traffic along the river was moving despite the lower speed limit and one-way traffic.
"There are no vessel traffic issues," he said.
The river reopened at 3 a.m. CDT (0800 GMT). Southbound ship traffic was cleared to move and now northbound traffic was being allowed transit, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
There was no estimate on when the river would reopen fully, the spokesman added.
The spokesman said that the clean up continued and they were awaiting another barge to lighter off the material from the damaged barge.
The Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River between markers 776 and 769, just north of Memphis, due to a hazardous material spill late Monday.
Coast Guard officials were on the scene implementing plans to clean up the spill and remove remaining cargo from a barge that was punctured in a collision with another barge tow, spilling acrylonitrile into the river.
Oil traders did not expect the incident to have any effect on crude movement up the river unless the closure was prolonged.
The closure also had little effect on corn and soybean barge shipments, although it could, if it lasts a while, delay cargo transits, commodities traders said.
Valero Energy Corp operates a 195,000 barrel per day refinery in Memphis. "At this time, there is no impact to operations at the Memphis refinery," said Bill Day, a company spokesman.
At about 9 p.m. CDT Monday (0100 GMT Tuesday), a collision occurred between the Merrick Jones, a 128-foot (39-meter) towing vessel pushing 26 barges, and the Dixie Express, an 87-foot towing barge pushing two barges carrying acrylonitrile. An unknown amount of acrylonitrile, which is both toxic and flammable, was released into the water after one of the barges being pushed by the Dixie Express got damaged.
(Reporting by Janet McGurty and Joshua Schneyer in New York, and Bruce Nichols in Houston; Editing by John Picinich)