Canadian exports give St. Lawrence Seaway shipping solid start

Canadian exports to the U.S. and abroad have kept Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway cargo shipments at a solid pace, despite tough economic conditions for some commodities.

“We’re encouraged by the results for the season to date, considering difficult markets for commodities like iron ore,” said Chamber of Marine Commerce President Stephen Brooks. “Thankfully Canadian manufacturers and producers increasingly recognize the Great Lakes/Seaway as a cost-efficient, sustainable way to export directly into the U.S economic heartland.”

“There are certainly some bright spots so far. Canadian exports of machinery, aluminum and dry bulk cargoes like cement have been strong,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “Businesses are responding to demand from the U.S. automotive and construction industries.”

Seaway year-to-date shipments (March 21 to May 31) reached 6.5 million metric tons, down 4 percent (282,000 metric tons) compared to the same period last year, due mainly to tonnage decreases in iron ore and imported steel. 

However, there were a number of positive cargo categories.

Dry bulk cargo shipments, in the same period, totaled 1.9 million metric tons, up 5 percent, with strong performances from cement, road salt and gypsum. 

Jim Reznik, Director of Logistics, North America, for Votorantim Cimentos, said: “The milder winter has led to a jumpstart to the construction season. Last year, construction activity in the U.S. Great Lakes grew as the economy improved and, so far, we’re seeing that continue. With the Seaway opening earlier, we have been able to get extra vessel loads out to serve our customers.”

St. Marys Cement, part of Votorantim Cimentos, transports cement and/or clinker from its Bowmanville, Ontario plant to its facilities in Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit for residential and commercial construction projects.

Seaway shipments of domestic general cargo were also up 64 percent, with McKeil Marine vessels transporting aluminum from a plant in Sept-Iles, Quebec to Oswego, New York; Detroit, Michigan; and Toledo, Ohio for automotive manufacturing.

“McKeil currently has two vessels dedicated to transporting aluminum sows for our long-standing customer, Aluminerie Alouette—the Alouette Spirit and our flagship bulk carrier, the Evans Spirit, the newest vessel in our fleet,” said Steve Fletcher, President of McKeil Marine. “As we celebrate our 60th year in business, we’re very optimistic about this shipping season, due largely in part to the increase in aluminum volumes resulting from current European pricing and an increased demand in the U.S. marketplace.”

Project cargo, such as oversized machinery, is expected to be another strong cargo category this season. 

Last week, Logistec’s cargo handling experts coordinated a short sea shipping project to move 78 tower sections aboard the M/V Rosaire A. Desgagnés from Port Weller, Ontario to Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia. Turbine manufacturer ENERCON produced the pieces locally in the Niagara region. Logistec is loading and unloading all cargo and will store the pieces in the Maritimes until regional construction sites are ready to put each turbine in place.

In May, Siemens Canada used the Port of Hamilton to ship 36 turbine blades to Europe, the second time the manufacturer has used the port to export products overseas in two years, due to its proximity to the Siemens plant in Tillsonburg, Ontario and because of its experienced stevedores.

“Facilitating trade and supporting Ontario manufacturing is what we’re all about,” said Ian Hamilton, Vice President of Business Development and Real Estate for Hamilton Port Authority. “The recent shipment of windmill components showcases the Port of Hamilton’s facilities and our capability to deliver goods anywhere in the world.”

Maritime Editorial