North American exports drive Seaway cargo shipments up 8 percent

Total cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway are up 8 percent this spring, compared to the same period last year, due to iron ore and grain export activity.

According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo tonnage from March 20 to April 30 reached 3.7 million metric tons.

Year-to-date, iron ore shipments totaled 800,000 metric tons, up 70 percent over 2016 levels, while Canadian grain totaled 800,000 metric tons, in line with last year’s strong performance.

“It’s still very early in the season, but the shipping season is off to a solid start. Iron ore pellet exports to Japan and China that started in the fourth quarter of last year have continued this spring and Great Lakes ports and vessels are also busy shipping out a large carryover of Canadian grain for export,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “The St. Lawrence Seaway is a vital gateway for international trade, facilitating import/export activity with more than 50 countries worldwide.”

Canadian domestic carriers are loading U.S. iron ore pellets at Minnesota ports/docks to ship via the Seaway to the Port of Quebec, where it is then transferred to larger oceangoing vessels for onward transport to Asia.

“Not only have we seen strong performances in major commodities like iron ore and grain, but also road salt volumes are up as municipal stockpiles are now being replenished following the return to more normal winter conditions across much of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region. Our full fleet is being utilized and we’re optimistic that 2017 will be a much better year for domestic shipping,” said Wayne Smith, Senior Vice-President, Commercial for St. Catharines-based Algoma Central Corporation.

Salt shipments via the Seaway (from March 20 to April 30) totaled 432,000 metric tons, up 20 percent over the same period in 2016.

Those figures were echoed at the Port of Windsor, where salt is shipped from the Ojibway mine owned by K+S Windsor Salt. David Cree, President and CEO of Windsor Port Authority, said: “It’s been a good start to the season overall in Windsor with salt shipments up 27 percent over the same period last year. Shipments of Ontario grain for export, which are predominantly soybeans from the fall harvest, are also up 50 percent.”

Overall cargo tonnage at Port of Hamilton is also up 8 percent, reflecting strength in the Ontario economy generally. Finished steel, used in construction and automotive, is trending 21 percent higher at the port than this point last season. Other construction-related materials are also showing strong results, such as aggregates, where 2017 tonnages are exceeding 2016 levels by more than 50 percent. Exports of grains at the port including Ontario-grown soybeans and corn are trending 67 percent higher than the same period in 2016, due in part to solid international demand for Canadian product.

Ian Hamilton, President and CEO of the Hamilton Port Authority, said: “These are very early season results, but they are certainly promising. The Port of Hamilton is highly integrated in the southern Ontario economy, so our good news is an indication of a vibrant economy in the province.”

Maritime Editorial