Grain leads the way as St. Lawrence Seaway shipping rises 4 percent

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

(OTTAWA) — As the fall harvest approaches for many farmers in the Midwest, grain shipments continue to be strong on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System.

According to the latest figures, grain shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway from March 29 to Aug. 31 topped 1 million metric tons, up 31 percent over the same period last year. The majority of U.S. exports originated from the Port of Toledo and were carry-over from the 2017 grain season.

The grain rush has helped boost overall cargo shipments on the St. Lawrence Seaway for the season to 21.4 million metric tons, a 4 percent increase over this time last year. Liquid bulk shipments at 2.8 million metric tons are also up 33 percent, with coal at 1.5 million metric tons, up 30 percent. Dry bulk shipments reached 5.5 million metric tons, down 4 percent.

“Total cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway are now ahead of last year’s very strong shipping season,” said Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “We anticipate this momentum to continue into fall as the new harvests head to market and other commodities benefit from the strength of the American economy.”  

Grain and coal shipments to the Port of Toledo in August helped move total tonnage for 2018 ahead of 2017. Grain shipments are up 80 percent over 2017 due to increasing global demand for soybeans. Increased volumes are also moving through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway as an alternative to the U.S. Gulf, where grain export facilities are reaching capacity.

“With a steady stream of inbound oceangoing traffic, there is significant capacity for back-haul opportunities of grain through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System this year,” said Joe Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “Shippers are taking advantage of our inland waterway system to access global markets with inbound and outbound cargo and, as a result, our saltwater traffic has doubled this year mainly due to outbound grain shipments.”

The Port of Cleveland’s international tonnage increased 10 percent in August when compared to August 2017. “Our project cargo sector remains very strong as we continue to handle large generators and transformers,” said David S. Gutheil, chief commercial officer of the Port of Cleveland. The port also had eight visits from Victory Cruise Lines in August, which was their busiest month in the cruise sector since that business started in 2017. The Port of Cleveland will welcome a total of 22 passenger vessels in 2018 and have already booked more than 30 visits in 2019.    

The Port of Green Bay had an exceptional month in August; total tonnage for the season is up 16 percent from this time last year. “August has been our best month for shipping so far in 2018,” said Dean Haen, port director. While petroleum shipments have been consistently high this year, imports of cement, limestone and coal all experienced significant increases in August. Haen also reports that the Port of Green Bay has welcomed nine more ships to date in 2018 than the same time last season.

According to a new study released this summer, cargo shipments to ports on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River waterway support 147,500 jobs and generate $25.6 billion in economic activity in the eight Great Lakes states.

By Professional Mariner Staff