St. Lawrence Seaway sees slight uptick in August traffic

“As we approach the mid-year point of the 2016 navigation season, we continue to see a diversified mix of cargoes moving throughout the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system,” said Betty Sutton, Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “Cargo diversification is an important factor in keeping our Great Lakes ports busy, and that was clearly reflected in last month’s Seaway traffic.” 

During the month of August, export cargoes consisted of general cargo, containerized cargo, wheat, soybeans and corn. Imports of aluminum arrived at the ports of Oswego and Toledo, and for the second straight month, windmill components were offloaded at the Port of Ogdensburg. The ports of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Burns Harbor (Indiana) and Milwaukee received bulk shipments of steel and high-value project cargoes consisting of machinery and mechanical presses. The Port of Ashtabula in northeast Ohio handled large loads of rutile and ilmenite sand from Australia and Kenya. 

Year-to-date, project cargo shipments through August at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor were up 66 percent over 2015. Grain shipments were up nearly 17 percent during the same time period.

“During August, our stevedores discharged numerous pieces of large machinery and specialized equipment for Midwest manufacturers,” said Burns Harbor Port Director Rick Heimann. “Cargoes included European generators, cranes and tanks. The port also saw an increase in grain shipments during August as 22,000 tons were shipped to our trading partners in Quebec.”

The Port of Milwaukee continues to see particularly strong grain exports this year, along with steel arriving at a pace similar to last year.

“The port received some good news this week with the announcement of a grant from the State of Wisconsin which will fund 80 percent of the cost of a $2.2-million rail improvement project at the port,” said Port Director Paul Vornholt. “When completed, this project will strengthen the connection between the Seaway and destinations beyond the western Great Lakes.”

“Commodity markets are not fully recovered, which means shipments of iron ore and coal through the Port of Duluth-Superior are still running below average,” said Vanta Coda, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “However, there are two highlights at this point in the 2016 shipping season: the port authority’s nearly $18 million dock redevelopment project is just weeks away from completion and, as of August, grain shipments were running some 18 percent ahead of last year.”

2016 has been a solid year for breakbulk shipments through the Port of Toledo.

“We’ve seen a lot of aluminum and project cargo so far this year,” said Joe Cappel, Vice President of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We welcome these shipments because they put folks to work at the dock. We also have a good system in place for coordinating the movement of project cargo through the port and region and try to make it as easy as possible for our customers to capitalize on the advantages of our inland waterway.”

The St. Lawrence Seaway reported that year-to-date cargo shipments for the period March 21 to August 31 were 17.2 million metric tons, down 7.5 percent over the same period in 2015. The dry bulk category was down nearly 14 percent. Iron ore was down 18 percent; coal was down almost 8 percent. While the general cargo category was down nearly 6 percent overall, steel slabs and other general cargo were up almost 70 percent.

Maritime Editorial