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Great Lakes ports, Seaway report strong finish to 2018

Dec 18, 2018 10:53 AM

Cargo volumes are up 5.3 percent over the same period in 2017

The following is text of a news release from the Chamber of Marine Commerce:

(OTTAWA) — The St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes ports are reporting strong growth in November cargo volumes that is expected to carry through in the final weeks of the 2018 season.

Overall cargo volumes through the St. Lawrence Seaway from March 29 to Nov. 30 topped 36 million metric tons, up 5.3 percent over the same period in 2017.

“It’s been a really positive year for St. Lawrence Seaway shipping and for several Great Lakes ports, particularly considering the unpredictable trade environment of the past year,” said Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “We expect the busy momentum from November to carry through to the end of December. All indications are that overall cargo volumes through the St. Lawrence Seaway will meet forecasts to top 40 million tons in 2018. When you consider Seaway shipping was up 9 percent in 2017, this year’s continued growth underlines the importance of this trade corridor to the success of the many industries we serve in the region.”

Grain exports and road salt were highlights of activity in November. Seaway salt shipments are ahead of last year’s volumes, totaling 2.2 million metric tons up to the end of November.

Year-to-date U.S. grain volumes via the Seaway have surpassed 2.1 million metric tons, up 33 percent compared to the same period in 2017.

Great Lakes ports have also seen the impact of business growth. The Port of Toledo loaded or unloaded 12 ocean vessels and 56 lakers and barges in November. With total tonnage approaching 8.9 million short tons, it will be a strong finish for the season. The largest gains compared to the 2017 season were in the grain and dry bulk categories.

“During October and November, we saw a steady stream of ocean vessels bringing in products like salt, fertilizer, pig iron and project cargo for the new Cleveland Cliffs HBI facility,” said Joe Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “Vessels also loaded out petroleum coke and grain from Toledo. During the 2018 season we have already seen more ocean vessels than any year since 2006.”

There was a late-season rush of iron ore and grain activity at the Port of Duluth-Superior in November; something the port anticipates will continue in December.

“The Port of Duluth-Superior is ending the shipping season on a strong note,” said Deb DeLuca, Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director. “Through November, grain volume was up 22 percent over last year, and shipments of Minnesota iron ore were outpacing the five-year average by over 25 percent. While coal loadings have dropped significantly in recent years, iron ore shipments have picked up pace, already at 18.4 million short tons through November. With Great Lakes traffic continuing well into January, we anticipate the Port’s overall tonnage tally will top 32 million tons to close out the 2018 shipping season.”

The port also had ship calls of international cargo in November. Early in the month, a shipment of domestically-produced wind blades moved for export through Duluth Cargo Connect via the Great Lakes-Seaway system to Europe. The port saw its last inbound cargo of kaolin clay from Brazil, which the port slurries on-site before transporting to papermakers in the region.

The Port of Green Bay is also on pace for a successful season, with 2018 tonnage already topping total tonnage for 2017. The year-to-date total has reached 1,882,855 tons; nearly 50,000 tons over the total for all of last year. The top commodities for the month were limestone and petroleum products.

“We’re on pace to reach, and most likely even exceed, our annual goal of 2 million tons,” said Dean Haen, port director. “That number is an indicator of the strength of northeast Wisconsin’s economy. We’re appreciative of the manufacturers, farmers and transportation and logistics companies of Northeast Wisconsin and their employees, who’ve worked hard this past year and as a result have increased their imports and exports, leading to this high overall tonnage.”

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