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Great Lakes Ports Report Busy August


U.S. Great Lakes ports reported a busy August shipping construction materials, road salt, aluminum and wind energy components. Year-to-date (March 22 to August 31) cement and clinker volumes via the St. Lawrence Seaway have totaled 1.1.million metric tons, up 1% over the same period as last year. Year-to-date stone shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway total 348,000 metric tons, up 10%.

Despite these areas of strength, bi-national cargo volumes via the St. Lawrence Seaway (from March 22 to August 31) were at 20.9 million metric tons, down 3.5% compared to the same period in 2018.

“Great Lakes ports have been busy moving cargo supporting the construction and renewable energy sectors. Aluminum shipments from Canada to the United States, which are used in automotive manufacturing, have also resumed this season following the lifting of trade tariffs,” said Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “These gains have been offset by a 20% decline in U.S. grain exports via the St. Lawrence Seaway after flooding this past spring prevented some U.S. farmers from getting into their fields to plant corn and soybeans.” 

The Port of Duluth-Superior, however, is seeing an increase in overseas wheat exports from western Minnesota and the Dakotas. Outbound grain tonnage tracked nearly 5% ahead of last year’s pace, helping push the port’s overall tonnage slightly ahead of 2018 and the five-year average.  

Jayson Hron, director of communications and marketing for Duluth Seaway Port Authority, added, “Cargo movement in the Port of Duluth-Superior remained brisk through August. Iron ore led the way, finishing the month more than 15% ahead of the five-year average and within 2% of last season’s pace, which was a 23-season high. We also welcomed several shipments of wind energy cargo in August, continuing a near-record pace for that particular cargo.”

The Port of Green Bay had an excellent month, totaling 316,224 tons of cargo moved; an 18% year-to-date increase in tonnage from August 2018. Limestone, up 75% over 2018, and petroleum products, a 72% increase in foreign exports and a 47% increase in foreign imports, were the largest contributors to the increase, along with an increase in salt. 

“As we make our way into winter, stockpiles of salt are building up,” said Port Director Dean Haen. “In Wisconsin, salt is an important commodity that keeps our roads and drivers safe from ice. We’re likely to continue seeing salt as a major import in the following months.”

Through August 2019, the Port of Toledo has handled over 5.4million tons of cargo. “While our cargo tonnage total is nearly identical to the 2018 and 2017 shipping seasons, the commodity mix is always changing,” said Joseph Cappel, vice president business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “In 2019, the Port has seen an increase in aluminum and steel, petroleum products and dry bulk products, while iron ore held steady.” Coal and grain were down from 2018, which offset some of the increases.  

“Cargo diversity continues to be key in our business strategy,” added Cappel. “When one cargo category is down, generally something else is up.” The Port of Toledo also handled several project cargo shipments of wind turbine components and continues to set a brisk pace for direct overseas traffic with 35 salties loaded or unloaded through August.