Seaway looks for bounce from winter-related cargoes

(OTTAWA, Ontario) — As shipping on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway enters the final weeks of the 2022 season, cargo shipments ebbed and flowed with the changing needs of the winter months. With nearly 4 million tons of cargo moving through the system in November, the year-to-date total has reached more than 31.5 million tons, down 6.8 percent from this time last year.

“It’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture when comparing 2022 and 2021,” said Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “For example, general cargo was down 22.35 percent in November 2022, but it was up 71 percent in November 2021, so that paints things a little differently when you compare; not just general cargo, but all categories. We’re optimistic the season will finish in good shape and shipments of winter-related products illustrate that.”

Picton Terminals in Prince Edward, Ontario. Chamber of Marine Commerce photo

Salt shipments (up 17.2 percent) for replenishing inventories for roadways aided the dry bulk category (up 1.4 percent). Petcoke shipments (up nearly 16 percent) and potash (up 184 percent) also contributed to the increase in dry bulk. Liquid bulk was up 8.5 percent in November, including petroleum products (up 27.4 percent).

In November, shipments at the Port of Toledo surpassed 10.5 million tons thanks in large part to gains in coal, grain and iron ore. Shipments are expected to remain steady going into the final month of the shipping season.

“We are handling about 20 percent more cargo since the Cleveland Cliffs HBI plant went into production at the port two years ago,” said Joseph Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We will build on our new baseline by continuing to make improvements to our dock and material handling capabilities making the necessary investments that will modernize our facilities. This includes the acquisition of a Liebherr 550 mobile harbor crane, the reconstruction of the dock wall at Midwest Terminals, a new conveyor system, and the addition of a multi-modal liquid bulk transload facility representing more than $32 million in recent project investment at the port.”

Through November, the Port of Monroe in Michigan has handled over 100,000 short tons of bulk product, 130,000 tons of liquid asphalt and 210,000 tons of steel coils. This fall, the port loaded over 3,000 tons of steel bars manufactured at Gerdau Special Steel Monroe on Mark W. Barker, the newest ship on the Great Lakes. The ship, bound for the Gerdau grinding ball mill in Duluth, Minn., where the material is melted down into grinding balls used by the mining industry, was loaded by the port’s new Manitowoc crawler crane.

The Port of Monroe also recently celebrated the award of a $11 million grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration. The Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project will fund a handful of components including shoreline reinforcement, rehabbing the existing wharf and the addition of a second wharf for future wind energy cargoes. The port’s Turning Basin dock, built in the 1930s, will be heavily rehabilitated and shore power infrastructure will be installed along the riverfront to provide power to the riverfront wharves.

More than 1.9 million short tons of iron ore sailed from the Port of Duluth-Superior in November, the season’s fourth-highest monthly iron ore throughput, helping lift the port’s season-to-date maritime tonnage total above 26.5 million through November.

November’s overall maritime tonnage total for the port eclipsed 3 million short tons for the seventh consecutive month, drawing the season-to-date total within 8.2 percent of the five-season average.

“General cargo shipments, including project cargoes, over-dimensional cargoes and a variety of other types, have definitely been among the highlights this season in the Port of Duluth-Superior,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It’s been a very good year for those arrivals, with shippers benefiting not only from Duluth Cargo Connect heavy-lift capabilities, but also from our port’s excellent road and rail clearances to and from the middle of North America. It’s part of the advantage cargo movers gain by using the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System to reach the Upper Midwest and interior Canada.”

At the Port of Cleveland, general cargo tonnage continues to outpace 2021 levels. “We are projected to finish 2022 more than 25 percent above our tonnage in 2021 for steel, container and project cargo movements,” said David Gutheil, chief commercial officer at the Port of Cleveland. “The modernization project involving Docks 24 and 26 is scheduled for completion in late May 2023. This has been an 18-month process, and when complete, will serve as the foundation for our general cargo dock for the next 30 to 40 years.”

In addition, the port recently completed the assembly of a pumping facility that will enable the transfer of liquid bulk cargo from vessel to rail car. This system will go into operation early in the 2023 cargo season. The port anticipates moving approximately 100,000 metric tons of liquid cargo through this system next year.

“The long-term infrastructure improvements we continue to make have shown the cargo market that the Port of Cleveland is a port of choice not only within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System, but within the U.S. supply chain system,” Gutheil said.

– Chamber of Marine Commerce

By Rich Miller