Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System reports strong 2020 season

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(WASHINGTON) — American and Canadian ports in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System reported that overall tonnage during the 2020 navigation season was down just 1.7 percent compared to the 2019 navigation season, despite facing a challenging year.

“The Seaway’s 62nd navigation season was one of the most remarkable in history,” said Craig Middlebrook, deputy administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. “Despite all the challenges throughout the year, it was one of the safest and smoothest seasons on record. The final tonnage results continue to demonstrate the resilience of the binational waterway and its ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

Top-performing commodities were:

• Grain, 13,308,000 metric tons, 27.1 percent increase
• Coal, 2,439,000 metric tons, 2 percent increase
• Gypsum, 859,000 metric tons, 32.8 percent increase
• Steel slabs, 503,000 metric tons, 181.7 percent increase
• Asphalt, 372,000 metric tons, 30.9 percent increase.

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Throughout the unprecedented year, several ports across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System saw major increases in wind cargo. For example, the Port of Duluth-Superior saw an increase of 219,000 freight tons in wind cargo compared to 2019 — the port’s previous record-breaking year.

“Looking beyond the numbers, this port’s emergence as a wind cargo hub is an important win for cargo diversity and also for the expansion of renewable energy nationwide,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It’s been a difficult year under the cloud of a global pandemic, but this freight tonnage record is a much-appreciated highlight, made even better by the fact that Duluth Cargo Connect set records in consecutive seasons.”

Ian Hirt, port director for the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, was also optimistic about the uptick of wind components.

“The Port of Burns Harbor saw a total of 45 shipments of wind components, both via ship from overseas as well as domestic origins via deck barge,” said Hirt. “We also handled approximately 10 ships containing components for gas-powered electric generation stations as the U.S. Midwest shifts away from coal.”

At the Port of Cleveland, two major infrastructure programs wrapped up in 2020, including a 400-foot extension of the ore tunnel at the port’s bulk terminal and an upgrade to the main gate at the general cargo terminal.

“The upgrades completed in 2020 will lead to much more efficient handling of cargo as well as an increase in throughput capacity,” Port of Cleveland Chief Commercial Officer David Gutheil said. “The main gate upgrade will also reduce wait times for trucks, enabling future cargo growth and reducing emissions.”

– Great Lakes-Seaway Partnership

By Professional Mariner Staff