St. Lawrence Seaway Cargo Shipments See a Slow Start to the Season

June 13, 2013

U.S. Ports Cautiously Optimistic

Washington, D.C. – The St. Lawrence Seaway reported that year-to-date total cargo shipments for the period March 22 to May 31 were 8.1 million metric tons, down 12 percent over the same period in 2012.

“U.S. grain tonnage shipped through Seaway locks more than doubled (132 percent) compared to last year’s figures through May 31, and there was a solid increase (7 percent) in liquid bulk products totaling almost a million metric tons.  These two commodities are the bright spots in the navigation season so far,” said Rebecca Spruill, Director of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation’s Office of Trade Development. 

Iron ore and coal, traditionally top producers for Seaway shipments, showed downturns of 17 percent and 7 percent respectively. Coal shipments in the Great Lakes have been dropping due to electric utility plants converting to natural gas operations.  However, U.S. ports have seen an increase of exports of low sulfur coal to Europe.

General cargo was down 19 percent to 389,000 metric tons.  In the liquid bulk category, petroleum products showed a 24 percent year-to-date increase to 642,000 metric tons. The dry bulk category was down 27 percent to 1.7 million metric tons.  However, scrap metal and pig iron posted upturns of 69 percent and 16 percent respectively.

While the season has had a rather slow start, U.S. ports are taking the long view.

“We’re excited to dive deeper into the 2013 shipping season to see which of our many initiatives to pursue new cargo at the Port will come to fruition,” said Joe Cappel, Director of Cargo Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.  “Already we are experiencing increased international grain shipments and are fielding many inquiries for project cargo and break bulk shipments.”  

 “We have also been targeting cargos related to the energy sector and feel there is a real opportunity for our terminals to participate in the supply chains for domestic oil and gas production.   At the same time, we’re busy overseeing the construction activity at our new 180 acre Ironville dock terminal and can’t wait to welcome our first vessel to the facility this fall. This dock and the adjacent area present a perfect opportunity for a large scale industrial user dependent on marine transportation to establish a new operation.”    

“Our tonnage is down slightly from last year’s fast start, but we are 15 percent ahead of our previous five-year average,” said Rick Heimann, port director for the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. “We have seen significant increases in bulk commodities and project cargoes, and had the added bonus of being able to handle the world’s largest crawler crane for the second time in two years as it was shipped back to Germany from the BP Refinery Expansion in Whiting, Ind. Looking ahead, we expect to see an increase in barge traffic coming up through the inland water system in June but the outlook for Seaway shipments is more uncertain at this point.”

Through May, the Port of Indiana handled 30-times more project cargo than 2012 YTD as well as significant increases in shipments of fertilizer (+37%), soybeans (+15%) and various dry bulk cargoes, including slag shipments which were up nearly five times more than the previous year’s five-month total.

Craig Middlebrook, SLSDC Acting Administrator, stated: “We continue to feel encouraged about the 2013 navigation season. The significant public and private reinvestments currently being made in the North American economy and the Great Lakes region are laying the groundwork for sustained future growth.”

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The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, and annually generates $14.1 billion in salary and wages, $33.5 billion in business revenue, and $4.6 billion in federal, state/provincial and local taxes. North American farmers, steel producers, construction firms, food manufacturers, and power generators depend on the 164 million metric tons of essential raw materials and finished products that are moved annually on the system. This vital trade corridor saves companies $3.6 billion per year in transportation costs compared to the next least-costly land-based alternative.

Follow Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping news on www.marinedelivers.comor on Twitter @MarineDelivers.

For interviews, please contact: Nancy Alcalde, Director, Congressional & Public Relations, Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation on 202-366-0091.

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Marine Delivers is a bi-national, industry collaboration that aims to demonstrate the positive economic and environmental benefits, safety, energy efficiency, and sustainability of the shipping industry throughout the Great Lakes-Seaway System. The Marine Delivers initiative is administered by the American Great Lakes Ports Association in the United States, and the Chamber of Marine Commerce in Canada.