Mild December aids Great Lakes ore carriers

The following is the text of a news release from the Lake Carriers' Association:

(CLEVELAND) — A relatively mild December on the Great Lakes allowed iron ore shipments to increase dramatically compared to a year ago when an early-arriving winter blanketed the system with thick ice. Shipments totaled 6.3 million tons, an increase of 23.6 percent compared to a year ago. The biggest increase came from U.S. ports on Lake Superior. Loadings out of Duluth, Minn., Superior, Wis., Two Harbors and Silver Bay, Minn., and Marquette, Mich., totaled 5,124,525 tons, an increase of 41.8 percent compared to December 2013.

The December surge allowed the iron ore trade to erase the deficit with 2013, at least on paper. Lakes-wide, the iron ore trade totaled 59.6 million tons, an increase of 2.2 percent. However, even with higher water levels allowing for bigger loads and the activation of three U.S.-flag lakers that had not been scheduled to operate in 2014, not all the iron ore that was contracted to be hauled was delivered. The heavy ice that carpeted the lakes between December 2013 and May 2014 delayed and/or cancelled so many voyages that the next seven months were not sufficient to meet all commitments.

January 2015 was not as cooperative ice- and weather-wise as December. A number of delays were incurred and cargo totals, when finalized, will reflect that.

The Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 55 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 115 million tons of cargo per year.

By Professional Mariner Staff