U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet finishes 2018 on strong note

U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters carried 8.5 million tons of cargo in December, an increase of 17.5 percent compared to a year ago. Driving the surge was a 16 percent increase in iron ore cargoes. Limestone and coal cargoes also registered increases, 31 and 19.5 percent, respectively.

For the year, U.S.-flag lakers carried 83.7 million tons of cargo, a decrease of 2.3 percent compared to 2017. Iron ore cargoes totaled 45.8 million tons, a decrease of 0.4 percent. That the iron ore total essentially pulled even with 2017 is noteworthy; the delays that resulted from heavy ice in March and April had the trade 16 percent off 2017’s pace at the end of April. In fact, the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards continued to break ice in Whitefish Bay at the eastern end of Lake Superior and the St. Marys River that connects Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes into May.

Coal cargoes totaled 11.8 million tons, a decrease of 11.4 percent. Limestone loadings approached 22 million tons, an increase of 1.9 percent.

Most U.S.-flag lakers have arrived at their winter berth. Two vessels in the ore/stone/coal trade are proceeding to their lay-up docks. Two cement carriers are still in service.

Andrea Lee