St. Lawrence Seaway Cargo Volumes Rise

Demand for construction and manufacturing materials both domestically and internationally continued on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway through August as shipments of iron ore, steel, cement and stone surged through the region.

According to the latest figures, St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes from March 22 to August 31 totaled 20.7 million metric tons, up 5.2% over the same time period in 2020. One of the commodities leading the charge was iron ore tonnage, up nearly 30% compared to the same period in 2020. The significant rise was partly due to an increase in Minnesota Iron Range pellets being transported from the Port of Duluth-Superior and Silver Bay to Quebec ports and then loaded onto ocean carriers for export overseas.

Year-to-date general cargo shipments were up 60%, mainly due to steel imports from European countries to cities throughout Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states. 

Year-to-date dry bulk shipments, including stone, cement, gypsum and other materials, were up 13%. These strong cargo categories were partly offset, however, by an 18% decline in grain shipments (including both Canadian and U.S. volumes).

“Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ships and ports specialize in efficiently transporting the metals and minerals that are now fueling North America’s manufacturing rebound and general economic recovery. We expect this surge in materials through our trade corridor to continue in the coming months,” said Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce.”

Slowing slightly from a torrid July, total maritime tonnage through the Port of Duluth-Superior topped 3.8 million short tons in August 2021. For the season, more than 19.1 million short tons transited the port through Aug. 31, which ranks slightly ahead of the five-season average and more than 40% ahead of the 2020 pace.

Driven by strong demand for United States steel, the port’s August iron ore float exceeded 2.3 million short tons. This pushed the seasonal total to 11.9 million short tons through Aug. 31, which is 13.2% above the five-season average.

“August serves as the unofficial halfway mark of the Great Lakes shipping season, and with total tonnage through Duluth-Superior closing the month almost 5% ahead of the five-season average, it certainly qualifies as a good first half,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Amidst ongoing disruption in the global supply chain, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System has been, by comparison, an oasis of consistency so far in 2021.”

Registering at 6,159,559 short tons, cargo through the Port of Toledo remained strong through August 2021 exceeding 2020 totals by more than 25%. 

 “Looking back, we have not surpassed 6 million tons through August since 2011,” said Joseph Cappel, vice president of business development at the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “The additional iron ore tonnage attributed to the Cleveland Cliffs HBI operation has really helped elevate the Port to the next level and we continue to focus on updating our infrastructure to accommodate additional throughput.  It’s exciting to think about the potential of this Port as we look toward the future.”

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