In 2020, U.S. shipyards ended a three-year decline in new jumbo hopper barge construction despite the negative economic effects from Covid-19, according to River Transport News (RTN).

Last year saw improvement in U.S. economic activity, however deliveries of new hopper barges fell last year, RTN said in its Jan. 24 newsletter.

According to RTN’s annual survey of new hopper barge construction, barge operators on the Mississippi River System took delivery of 300 new jumbo hopper barges in 2021. Deliveries were down 22% from 385 new hopper barges delivered in 2020, RTN reported. RTN said that "new hopper barge building activity was subdued by recent historical standards." In 2016, new hopper barge deliveries totaled nearly 1,000 barges.

RTN said that the primary development reason for the dip in new barge construction last year were high steel prices. The majority of hopper barges delivered to the inland marine sector in 2021 were from orders placed during the third or fourth quarters of 2020 or early in 2021, RTN reported. During this period, RTN said, the price of plate steel was between $500 and $600 per ton. By the end of the first quarter, steel prices began to "skyrocket" with prices exceeding $1,000 per ton for the remainder of the year.