Seaway finishes 2017 season with 9 percent increase in cargo

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

(WASHINGTON) — The St. Lawrence Seaway System, North America’s binational marine highway stretching 2,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, reported strong gains during the 2017 navigation season including a standout year in iron ore, dry bulk and general cargo shipments. The final tonnage results – 38.1 million tons of goods moved in 2017 – reflect solid increases over the
previous year, including a 9 percent overall jump in total cargo traffic.

Top performing cargoes via the Seaway for 2017*

• Dry bulk goods (including salt, cement, potash, and pig iron) amounted to 10.4 million tons of cargo, representing an 18 percent increase over 2016.
• General cargo (including iron, steel and steel slabs) amounted to 3.4 million tons of cargo, representing a 30 percent increase over 2016.
• Iron ore shipments amounted to 8 million tons, representing a 29 percent increase over 2016.

*All performance metrics above based on cargo traffic for the St. Lawrence Seaway System only, excluding interlake traffic on the Great Lakes.

“We are pleased to see the strong finish for the year, particularly with respect to iron ore shipments,” said Craig Middlebrook, deputy administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. “The demand for both traditional and new Seaway cargoes is having positive implications for Great Lakes shipping and maritime related employment. These numbers validate the importance of the system as an essential trade artery and reflect the continued growth in manufacturing, construction and other industries throughout the region.”

Serving as a vital transportation network for the region’s “Opportunity Belt,” the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System supports the movement of goods within North American and more than 50 countries across the globe. The 2017 navigation season opened on March 20, 2017 and closed on Jan. 11, 2018. In addition to being a strong cargo year, 2017 was one of the safest on record.

In addition to the robust traffic in the Montreal-Lake Ontario section of the Seaway, cargo movements were strong across the Great Lakes. Interlake shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes totaled 60.3 million tons in 2017, an increase of nearly 11 percent year over year – the highest total recorded since 2012.

“The significant increase in iron ore shipments clearly illustrates that when American steel rebounds, the country depends on lakers to supply its iron ore,” said James Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association. “Without Great Lakes shipping, America would be dependent on foreign steel, jeopardizing hundreds of thousands of family-sustaining jobs that ring the Great Lakes.”

Logistics and transportation hub: Great Lakes ports*

Commercial shipping serves more than 70 individual ports in the eight Great Lakes states. The ports of Duluth-Superior, Toledo and Cleveland, principal points of entry for iron ore in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System, finished the season strong – some reporting record breaking numbers.

“It’s been an extraordinary year of shipments of Minnesota iron ore from the Port of Duluth-Superior,” said Adele Yorde, public relations director for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Both domestic and international demand for steel making has remained strong.”

Iron ore volumes at the Port of Duluth-Superior amounted to 19.2 million net tons through December 2017 (a 34 percent increase over 2016) – one of the strongest seasons in recent memory.

“Iron ore, which has been our biggest mover in recent years, more than doubled in 2017, coming in at 3.4 million tons over the previous year,” said Joe Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which experienced its best overall tonnage since 2014. “Increases in iron ore is a sign that the manufacturing economy is improving. The more things made out of steel – automobiles, appliances, hardware and car parts, for example – requires the need for more iron ore.”

David Gutheil, vice president of maritime and logistics at the Port of Cleveland, reported an overall increase in economic activity at the port in 2017, including handling 464,000 metric tons of general cargo, which was up 19 percent over 2016.

*All performance metrics above based on cargo traffic across the Great Lakes, including interlake traffic.

By Professional Mariner Staff