U.S. Great Lakes ports had busy November

CSL Trillium class ship in Toledo CSL Trillium class ship in Toledo

DECEMBER 17, 2013 — While the 2013 shipping season saw overall fluctuating cargo figures, U.S. ports on the Great Lakes have continued to outperform their initial projections, says the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

The St. Lawrence Seaway reported that year-to-date total cargo shipments for the period March 22 to November 30 were 33 million metric tons, down 6 percent over the same period in 2012.

"The shipping industry in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System relied heavily on our terminal operators and longshoremen this month as they loaded and unloaded ships full of steel, grain, iron ore, coal and general cargo" said Rebecca Spruill, Director of Trade Development at the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. "That's just a few of the cargoes that moved across our U.S. docks in a safe, efficient and very timely manner."

The 2013 shipping season was a good one at the Port of Toledo. Through November the Port saw increases in all major cargo categories with the exception of iron ore. General cargo shipments at Midwest Terminals of Toledo have more than doubled over 2012 with aluminum, project cargo, and the resurgence of steel coils handling leading the way.

"We are just beginning to reap the rewards from the investments made in improving our infrastructure and material handling capability," said Joe Cappel, Director of Cargo Development for the Port of Toledo. "With the addition of the new Ironville Terminal next year, we expect to continue to see growth in tonnage and types of commodities handled in our network of facilities. Our strength resides in the diversity of products we have the ability to handle in Toledo along with our central location within the system. The Toledo Shipyard also had a successful November which included the dry docking of the car ferry Jimaan and the first of two Algoma tankers."

In November, back to back shipments of inbound pig iron along with a robust grain export program pushed overseas cargo in Toledo up nearly 17 percent over 2012. Grain shipments were up 8 percent over 2012.

"There were very active grain shipments from Toledo in the fourth quarter of 2013, primarily soybeans, and in parallel with other port ranges including Gulf and Pacific North West. Record weekly and monthly shipments of U.S. soybeans, primarily to Chinese destinations, drove the volumes," said Jim McKinstray, Vice President Central Merchandising and Transportation for The Andersons.

"Aiding this upward movement were exceptional crops in virtually all production regions, which stands in sharp contrast to the "once in a generation" drought experienced just one year ago. A combination of foreign flag direct shipments and laker transshipments through Canadian ports enabled this active trade," he added.

The Port of Milwaukee is also wrapping up a strong year. Raw materials for use in regional industries have kept Port cargo numbers up. Overall tonnage for the year shows a large increase driven by substantial dry bulk quantities. Salt, primarily used for street deicing, saw the largest jump in cargo volume in 2013. Through November, the Port handled 1.3 million tons of salt – more than twice the amount handled in 2012.

"Through the month of November, cargo volume reflects better manufacturing activity in the region served by the Port of Milwaukee," Acting Port Director Paul Vornholt said. "Infrastructure investments at the Port continue to improve the customer experience, and we hope that is a factor in maintaining and growing our traffic in the coming years."

U.S. grain has been a consistent bright spot throughout the shipping season. In November, 1.4 million metric tons of U.S. grain moved through the System, representing a 17 percent increase year-to-date over 2012. As noted above, steel is driving tonnage for some U.S. ports, but iron ore shipments remained down in November by nearly 7 percent while coal shipments dropped only .09 percent for the month. The liquid bulk category posted an 11 percent jump over the same time in 2012.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, and annually generates $14.1 billion in salary and wages, $33.5 billion in business revenue, and $4.6 billion in federal, state/provincial and local taxes. North American farmers, steel producers, construction firms, food manufacturers, and power generators depend on the 164 million metric tons of essential raw materials and finished products that are moved annually on the system. This vital trade corridor saves companies $3.6 billion per year in transportation costs compared to the next least-costly land-based alternative.