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St. Lawrence Seaway traffic keeps pace with five-year average

Dec 18, 2019 12:38 PM

Year-to-date tonnage is 6.4 percent behind 2018’s record-breaking season

The following is text of a news release from the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership:

(WASHINGTON) — The St. Lawrence Seaway on Wednesday announced that traffic is on pace with the Seaway’s five-year average. Through November, Great Lakes vessel operators moved a combined 34.04 million metric tons of cargo. Year-to-date overall tonnage is 6.4 percent behind 2018’s record-breaking season (compared to this time last year).

As the navigation season nears its end, dry bulk commodities surpassed last year’s volumes by 12.8 percent, liquid bulk by 2 percent and containerized cargo by 44 percent. 

“With Seaway cargo tonnage reaching 34 million tons through November, though down slightly from this time last year, traffic is still keeping up with the five-year average," said Craig H. Middlebrook, deputy administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. "Our ports are busy as we approach the end of the navigation season, and we are seeing that cargo diversity is more important than ever.”

 Top five performing cargos through November 2019 include: 

Salt — 3,478,000 metric tons; 16.9 percent* increase

Petroleum products — 3,095,000 metric tons; 5.6 percent* increase

Cement and clinkers — 1,785,000 metric tons; 6 percent* increase

Coke — 1,362,000 metric tons; 17.5 percent* increase

Gypsum — 581,000 metric tons; 38.1 percent* increase 

*Compared to 2018 tonnage. Percentages rounded to nearest 10th.

The Port of Toledo is just one example of an American Great Lakes port optimizing activity with robust cargo diversification. Through November, the port handled over 8.6 million tons of cargo on nearly 500 vessel transits. Despite seeing a decline in grain shipments, Joe Cappel, vice president of business development, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, noted gains in general cargo, iron ore and petroleum products for the port.

“We knew in the spring with all the rain and flooding that fall grain exports would be down — and they are by nearly 50 percent. The Port of Toledo, however, is very resilient, and we’ve seen gains in other cargo categories that have offset the grain numbers,” said Cappel. “Our thoughts are with all the farmers and we are hoping that 2020 will be a much better year for them and that the Port of Toledo will be firing on all cylinders.”

Port Milwaukee saw multiple international imports during November, contributing to the port’s 24 percent increase in overall tonnage compared to last season. 

Adam Schlicht, director, Port Milwaukee, shared that overall steel imports are eight percent over the port’s 2018 season. Shipments accounting for the increase include steel coils from Germany, Belgium and Netherlands, stainless steel plates and steel rails from Belgium, and flats from the United Kingdom. 

Port Milwaukee also received a shipment of salt from Egypt, adding to the port’s strong season —particularly in handling dry bulk shipments across multiple commodity categories.

Schlicht noted that “shipments of salt and limestone, handled by Milwaukee Bulk Terminals and others, as well as cement, handled by LaFarge and others, have seen double-digit increases when compared to tonnage amounts through December 2018.”

Port activity: The Port of Duluth-Superior

The Port of Duluth-Superior finished November ahead of their five-season average and remained on pace to top 35 million tons for the third consecutive season, with grain tonnage finishing the month more than 16 percent ahead of this time last season and 10 percent over the five-season average.

General cargo tonnage, including the final wind energy cargo shipments of 2019 and multiple industrial project cargo shipments, also contributed to a healthy November tonnage total in Duluth. In total, general cargo tonnage for November exceeded the Port’s five-season average by 11 percent.

Seaway receives cargos from 14 countries in November

In November, the Seaway saw an international mix of inbound shipments from Canada, Africa, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Brazil, Norway, Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey. A few particularly noteworthy shipments in November included a shipment of ferromanganese and silicomanganese from Norway into the Port of Chicago, a shipment of slag from South Africa into the Port of Ashtabula, and a shipment of salt from Egypt into the Port of Green Bay.

About the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership

The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership is a coalition of leading U.S. and Canadian maritime organizations working to enhance public understanding of the benefits of commercial shipping in the Great Lakes Seaway region of North America. The organization manages an education-focused communications program, sponsors research and works closely with media, policy makers, community groups, allied industries, environmental stakeholders and the general public to highlight the positive attributes of marine transportation.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System is a marine highway that extends 2,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Approximately 143.5 million metric tons of cargo is moved across the system on an annual basis, supporting more than 237,868 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity.

For more information, visit www.greatlakesseaway.org.

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