Seaway cargo shipments up 18 percent in first half of shipping season

Iron ore and grain exports continued to drive a Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway shipping resurgence in the first half of the shipping season with cargo shipments up 18 percent over 2016.

According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo tonnage from March 20 to July 31 reached 16 million metric tons—2.5 million metric tons more compared to the same period in 2016.

“Cargo shipments first started to improve last autumn and we’re very pleased to see that positive momentum continue throughout the first half of 2017,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “The main drivers have been U.S. iron ore and Canadian grain exports along with domestic demand for steel, salt and construction materials. Looking ahead, we await the results of the new grain harvest as this will influence shipments later this year.”

Year-to-date, iron ore shipments totaled 3.7 million metric tons, up 68 percent over 2016 levels. 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 Japan and China.

Seaway salt shipments from Ontario and Quebec mines to cities and towns throughout the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region totaled 1.4 million metric tons, up 42 percent over the same period last year.

Canadian grain totaled 3.1 million metric tons, up 9 percent, with vessels shipping a large carry over of Prairie and Ontario grain products from last fall harvest to overseas markets.

The Port of Thunder Bay, the primary Great Lakes gateway for Prairie grain, has shipped 350,000 metric tons more grain than usual as of July 31.

The Port of Windsor is also off to a very strong start in 2017, with total traffic up by almost 20 percent as of the end of July. Leading the surge are shipments of grain, which are up by 36 percent and salt volumes which are up by 32 percent. Also posting strong growth is inbound general cargo, which consists primarily of imported steel and is up by just over 25 percent.

Commenting on the shipping season to date, David Cree, President & CEO of the Windsor Port Authority, stated: “We are obviously very pleased with these strong early results for the season. We had anticipated a slight recovery after the downturn in 2016, but these numbers have exceeded our projections. It is also important to note that two of the largest gains for the year, grain and general cargo, are shipped to a large extent on foreign vessels which utilize a significant portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway system, thus contributing significantly to the Seaway system’s strong early results.”

At the Port of Hamilton, commodities like salt, grain and fertilizer are all showing good results at the midpoint in the 2017 shipping season.

Ian Hamilton, President and CEO of the Hamilton Port Authority, explained: “While Ontario agricultural producers are major exporters of grain, including corn, wheat and soybeans, crop inputs such as urea ammonium nitrate are also imported for use within Ontario’s farming regions. Hamilton is a key import gateway for these products. Lower fertilizer prices are driving increased import volumes this year, with tonnages through the Port of Hamilton trending 24 percent higher so far in the 2017 shipping season, compared to 2016.

Maritime Editorial