December 18, 2019 – As the 2019 shipping season heads into the final weeks, U.S. Great Lakes ports report increases in road salt shipments, petroleum products and general cargo in November.
Despite these areas of strength, overall 2019 St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes are down 6 percent (for the period of March 22 to November 30) compared to 2018. Weaker overall U.S. grain exports, declines in steel imports due to U.S. tariffs and difficult navigational conditions due to very high water flows within the St. Lawrence River have restrained cargo volumes.
Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said: “Despite the overall Seaway decrease, it’s great to see so many U.S. ports reaching their yearly goals with a few weeks remaining in the shipping season and exceeding their 2018 cargo totals. We’re optimistic this momentum will continue. Cities and manufacturing companies rely on this important Great Lakes-Seaway trade corridor to stockpile road salt for deicing roads, deliver crucial raw materials for plant production, and export grain and other products right up to the end of December.”
The Port of Duluth-Superior finished the month of November slightly ahead of the five-season average and is on pace to top 35 million short tons for the third consecutive season despite a decline in coal tonnage. Grain movement through the Port was especially strong, topping the previous month’s haul and eclipsing the November 2018 tonnage by nearly 60 percent.
“Grain tonnage for the Port of Duluth-Superior finished the month more than 16 percent ahead of last season and 10 percent better than the five-season average,” says Jayson Hron, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
General cargo tonnage, including the final wind energy cargo shipments of 2019 and multiple industrial breakbulk shipments, also contributed to a healthy November tonnage total. In total, general cargo tonnage for November exceeded the five-season average by 11 percent.
Through November, the Port of Toledo has handled over 8.6 million short tons on nearly 500 vessels. The Port credits gains in general cargo, iron ore and petroleum products for the near offset of the large decline in grain shipments in November.
“We knew in the spring, with all the rain and flooding, that fall grain exports would be down, and they are by nearly 50 percent,” said Joe Cappel, VP Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “However, the Port of Toledo is very resilient, and we’ve seen gains in other cargo categories that have offset the grain numbers. Our thoughts are with all the farmers and we are hoping that 2020 will be a much better year for them and that the Port of Toledo will be firing on all cylinders.”
This fall, Port’s Ironville terminal began receiving the first shipments of iron ore from Minnesota for the Cleveland Cliffs Hot Briquetted Iron facility in Toledo. “We are all looking forward to the steady stream of vessel traffic that the facility will bring from this point forward,” adds Cappel.
The Port of Green Bay reached its 2019 goal of 2 million tons in November thanks to nearly 207,000 tons of cargo moved into and out of the Port. At 2,081,962 tons through November, year-to-date tonnage is running 9 percent ahead of the total from last year.
“Two million tons is the benchmark for a successful shipping season for the Port of Green Bay,” said Dean Haen, Port of Green Bay Director. “Hitting that mark at the end of November is great news with several weeks of shipping remaining before the season closes. We’re optimistic we will reach 2.3 million tons for this season.”
More than 680,000 tons of limestone has been imported in Green Bay so far this season, with domestic imports of limestone outpacing 2018 by 23 percent. Foreign salt imports from Egypt and Canada have also been strong at 290,000 tons; 60 percent higher than 2018 salt imports. Exports of petroleum products to Montreal and Quebec were up 125 percent from the same time period in 2018.
Port Milwaukee also surpassed the 2 million tons benchmark in November; nearing its best cargo volumes in recent years.
“Overall tonnage through Milwaukee remains up over 20 percent when compared to 2018, and shipping has remained high across multiple commodity categories,” Director Adam Schlicht said. “The Port’s winter shipping service in early 2020 will likely be busy, as southeastern Wisconsin has already experienced earlier-than-normal snow activity. Port Milwaukee’s ability to offer road and specialty salts throughout the region will be fully utilized.”
Schlicht added, “Port Milwaukee has positioned itself as a premiere turnaround cruise facility on the Great Lakes. With Milwaukee as the host city of the 2020 Democratic National Convention and cruise-related tourism growing, Milwaukee and its Port are increasingly being seen as a world-class transportation hub and international tourism destination of choice.”
The Port of Cleveland is also experiencing a strong finish to the 2019 shipping season, as general cargo is up approximately 5 percent through November.
“Through November, general cargo is up approximately 5 percent compared to 2018 numbers due to the efforts of the Port and Logistec, our terminal operator, which secured new cargoes that have added to our existing portfolio,” said Dave Gutheil, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Cleveland. “The Port also recently completed a significant infrastructure improvement at our bulk terminal, that rehabilitated the entire length of our 1,800’ bulkhead, which will enable more efficient handling of cargoes at that facility. In addition, our cruise vessel calls increased by 25 percent during the 2019 season, and we expect that growth to continue into the 2020 season.”
Photos can be downloaded at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marinecommerce/albums/72157657049769546
About the Chamber of Marine Commerce
The Chamber of Marine Commerce is a bi-national association that represents more than 130 marine industry stakeholdersincluding major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber advocates for safe, sustainable, harmonized and competitive policy and regulation that recognizes the marine transportation system’s significant advantages in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, Coastal and Arctic regions.
Chamber of Marine Commerce