Great Lakes iron ore trade up 23.4 percent in April

The following is the text of a news release from the Lake Carriers Association (LCA):

(CLEVELAND) — Shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway totaled 5,355,855 tons in April, an increase of 23.4 percent compared to a year ago. Shipments also topped the month’s five-year average by 18.4 percent.

Shipments from U.S. ports totaled 4,981,058 tons in April, an increase of 27 percent compared to a year ago. Loadings at Canadian terminals dipped by 11.6 percent to 374,797 tons.

Although water levels on all five Great Lakes are currently above long-term average, U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters (lakers) are still not carrying full loads. The largest iron ore cargo to ever move in the Head-of-the-Lakes trade (Lake Superior to Lower Lakes ports) is 72,300 tons, but only two iron ore shipments topped 70,000 tons in April. Even midsized lakers in the ore trade were routinely leaving port with 5 to 6 percent of their rated carrying capacity unused in April. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that approximately 17 million cubic yards of sediment still clog the Great Lakes Navigation System. Only dredging, not temporarily high water levels, will permit vessels to carry full loads.

Year to date, the iron ore trade stands at 9,399,431 tons, an increase of 14.6 percent. Loadings at U.S. ports are up more than 21 percent, but shipments from Canadian ports in the St. Lawrence Seaway are down 12 percent.

The Lake Carriers’ Association represents 14 American companies that operate 56 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes and carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain. Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 100 million tons of cargo per year.  More information is available at

By Professional Mariner Staff