US grain exports pace cargo increase on Seaway

The following is text of a news release from the Chamber of Marine Commerce:

(OTTAWA) — Total cargo shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway (March 29 to Sept. 30) reached 25.7 million metric tons, up 4.1 percent over the same time period in 2017.

In the thick of the fall harvest, U.S. grain exports on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway continue at a robust pace and are expected to remain steady for the remainder of the shipping season. U.S. grain shipments for the season totaled 1.6 million metric tons, up 45.6 percent. Salt shipments also showed significant improvement after a labor strike at the Compass Minerals Goderich, Ontario mine ended in July. Salt shipments (from March 29 to Sept. 30) reached 1.9 million metric tons, down 12 percent.

“While salt tonnage remains down compared to 2017 volumes, we saw a positive change with a healthy increase in salt shipments in the last couple of months,” said Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “As we get closer to winter, with some parts of the Midwest already experiencing snowfall, ports throughout the Great Lakes are replenishing their salt supplies to prepare for the weather. September was also a positive month for cement, stone and gypsum.”  

At the Port of Green Bay, total tonnage for the season is up 7 percent from this time last year. In September, the top shipments were cement, coal and limestone, however gypsum made its first entrance into the port since 2014. The vessel, Pere Marquette, brought approximately 4,700 tons of gypsum from Michigan to Green Bay, for use by GLC Minerals.

Also, for the first time since 2014, the port is on course for its best year, thanks primarily to coal and petroleum products. “Between the increased shipments of coal and petroleum products throughout the season, the Port of Green Bay is on pace to reach 2 million metric tons of cargo moved in 2018,” said Dean Haen, Port of Green Bay director. “While salt deliveries are down for this time of year due to the salt mine strike in Canada this past July, we are making plans to get enough salt deliveries scheduled for winter road maintenance before the end of the year.”  

Grain shipments through the Port of Toledo, which include corn, wheat, oats, canola and soybeans, surpassed the 1-million-ton mark in September, up 90 percent from January to September compared to the same time in 2017. Tonnage through the port remained steady through September, 2 percent greater than the same period in 2017. 

“Some folks may not know that the Port of Toledo is home to some very active grain terminals, including one of the largest flour mills in the world operated by Mondelez,” said Joe Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “Corn and soybeans are often available from ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) or The Andersons to reload on ocean going vessels bringing break-bulk or project cargo into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System.” 

Toledo also saw an uptick in salt shipments in September as companies begin to build stockpiles for the winter. The port expects a strong finish to the season and has a busy schedule of international vessel traffic at the general cargo terminal operated by Midwest Terminals. The grain facilities are also expected to be very active throughout the fall harvest as the soybean shipments transitions from the 2017 crop to the 2018 crop.

The weather has slowed down the shipments to the Port of Duluth-Superior this fall, however the port reports the demand for grain and iron ore shipments remain strong. 

“Momentum carried over from August, with shipments of agricultural products running almost 20 percent ahead of last season, and year-to-date iron ore loadings through September already approaching 14 million short tons, a full 23 percent ahead of the five-year average,” says Adele Yorde, Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokeswoman. The port’s primary agricultural products include durum and spring wheat, beet pulp pellets, and a small amount of flax and canola.

By Professional Mariner Staff