U.S. Ports, Seaway Report Positive October on Great Lakes

U.S. Great Lakes ports and the St. Lawrence Seaway had one of their busiest months of the season in October, fueled by increases in shipments of grain, salt and construction materials.

Overall cargo shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway (from March 29 to October 31) totaled 30.5 million metric tons, up four percent over the same period in 2017.

U.S. grain shipments are still going strong with year-to-date volumes hitting 1.9 million metric tons, up 44 percent over the same period last year. Cement and clinker volumes through the Seaway are up 20 percent for the season.

Salt shipments have significantly rebounded from earlier in the year due to international imports from Egypt and Morocco. North American salt was in short supply following a 12-week strike at the Goderich Mine in Canada over the summer. Salt providers are filling gaps in their quotas and contracts by importing salt on ocean-going vessels.

“This is a good example of how the navigation system can quickly provide a reliable, competitive supply chain even when unforeseen circumstances arise,” says Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “While salt is not back to where it was at this time last year, there have been significant increases since the summer months to prepare ports and local terminals for the winter.”

The Port of Green Bay had a very active October with 268,800 tons of cargo moving through the Port with year-to-date shipping totals up 10 percent. Like St. Lawrence Seaway traffic, October had Green Bay’s second highest monthly total of the year, behind only August’s 275,500 tons.

“We are very pleased with the tonnage numbers, not just from October, but the entire season so far,” says Dean Haen, Port of Green Bay Director. “We’re hoping the last few months of the season stay strong. Even if they dip a bit, which would not be unusual for this time of year, thanks to strong months like August and October, we already consider 2018 to be a successful shipping season.”

2018 has seen more petroleum products and project cargo exported from the Port to Green Bay compared to the same time last year. More limestone, gypsum, wood pulp and petroleum products have been imported. Haen notes this is the first year that gypsum and wood pulp have been imported since 2014 and 2008, respectively.

At the Port of Toledo, grain shipments are up 45 percent for the season compared to 2017. October was a good month for international vessel traffic at the Port. “During October we had an ocean vessel discharging one type of bulk cargo then reloading another bulk cargo all at the same dock,” says Joe Cappel, VP of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We also saw another ocean vessel bring bulk material into one Toledo terminal then load grain for the return trip across the Atlantic at another Toledo terminal.”

“This is the best-case scenario for the Port of Toledo, the vessel line and for the shipper. Any time a vessel does not need to travel empty, it is a win-win situation,” Cappel adds. The Port of Toledo also experienced increases in coal and dry bulk shipments including salt, fertilizer, pig iron, bauxite and petroleum coke in October.

“Iron ore continues to dominate tonnage totals through the Port of Duluth-Superior this fall, accounting for 16.5 million of the 27.6 million short tons moved through October,” says Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Heavy storms certainly slowed product flow in early spring and again this fall, as did a weakened demand for coal, yet momentum from summer carried over into fall with shipments of agricultural products running 10 percent ahead of last season through October and iron ore loadings a full 27 percent ahead of the port’s five-year average.”

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