Continued demand for raw materials keeps Great Lakes/Seaway traffic above five-year average

Overall gains in traditional cargoes, with shipments of coal, grain, liquid bulk and general cargoes totaling 4.67 million metric tons (MT) are keeping Seaway traffic above the five-year average.

Year-to-date total cargo shipments for the period from March 29 through May 31, 2018 were 7.866 million metric tons, a decrease of 3.71 percent compared to 2017 figures.

Top performing cargoes through May include:

  • Coal – 649,000 MT; a 43.4 percent increase
  • Grain – 2,204,000 MT; an 8.58 percent increase
  • Liquid Bulk – 1,096,000 MT; a 19.4 percent increase
  • Pig Iron – 61,000 MT; a 324.4 percent increase
  • Steel Slabs – 205,000 MT; a 100.6 percent increase

“With our 60th navigation season well underway, the Seaway continues to do what it does best—moving traditional bulk cargoes such as coal and grain, with tonnage increases posted for both,” says Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “The continued demand for raw materials to support the automotive, manufacturing and construction sectors is keeping Seaway traffic steady and above the five-year average.”

At the ports
The U.S. ports of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oswego, New York and Toledo, Ohio showed strong activity thus far this year.

“May has been a month of steady traffic at Port Milwaukee with steel arriving at a pace comparable to recent strong years,” says Jeff Fleming, spokesperson for Port Milwaukee. “Some of the same ships bringing steel have made the short hop to the silos in Port Milwaukee’s inner harbor where they have loaded locally grown grain for export.”

A similar demand is opening a new market for U.S. grain that has not existed at Oswego for over 40 years, says William Scriber, Acting Executive Director of the Port of Oswego Authority.

“We are just finishing a joint project with Purdue Agribusiness to start tripling our grain exports to 60,000 metric tons for 2018 and increasing to 75,000-80,000 metric tons in 2019,” says Scriber. “Last year we had a total of under 15,000 metric tons shipped by water. This year our first ship, scheduled for the end of June, will almost equal that.”

Nearly 2.5 million tons of cargo have passed through the Port of Toledo this season. Coal and grain are outpacing 2017 year-to-date results while other commodities are not far behind. Additionally, distillers’ dry grains have begun to move out of the port for the first time while shipments of bagged salt and bagged cement have also been imported.

“Salt and cement are not new commodities for our port but handling these products packaged in bags and super sacks is new,” says Joe Cappel, Vice President of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “It’s great to see that shippers are pursuing new ways to utilize the St. Lawrence Seaway system for moving non-traditional cargoes.”

Maritime Editorial