TOLEDO — After a slow start due to ice conditions, St. Lawrence Seaway cargo surged in May fueled by grain and iron ore exports and shipments of road salt. According to the latest numbers, cargo shipments from March 22 through the end of May totaled 8.3 million metric tons, bringing it in line with last year’s strong performance.
“If the May pace continues, we should be able to build on the 17% Seaway cargo growth accumulated over the past two years,” said Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “U.S. Great Lakes ports are also reporting an acceleration in business. Two key growth areas are increased domestic and imported road salt and iron ore volumes due to domestic demand for steel production and exports of iron ore pellets from Minnesota to international locations like China.”
Iron ore shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway (from March 22-May 31) totaled 1.5 million metric tons, up 8% compared to the same period last year. Dry bulk cargoes via the Seaway (2.2 million metric tons) are up 11%, buoyed by road salt shipments as cities across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region replenished their supplies after the long, difficult winter.
At the Port of Toledo, tonnage through May is 8% ahead of 2018. Iron ore, petroleum products and dry bulk led the way, while grain shipments remained on par with last year. A combination of grain, salt, pig iron and other bulk products along with project cargo for the Cleveland Cliffs HBI Facility have accounted for 14 ocean vessel calls in Toledo this year.
“So far this year, we’ve had more ‘salties” (ocean-going vessels) calling on Toledo than any year since 2006,” said Joseph Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We are cautiously optimistic that this early momentum can continue throughout the season, with the hope that aluminum volumes return to normal and that the wet spring does not impact our fall grain program too badly.”
The Duluth Seaway Port Authority also reports a similar start to the season. “After an ice-slowed start in March, the pace picked up considerably in April and May,” said Jayson Hron, Duluth Seaway Port Authority director of communications and marketing.
“Overall tonnage for the Port of Duluth-Superior increased 9% over April 2018, led by an early-season surge in coal shipments, the typically robust levels of iron ore and our first grain shipments of the season,” added Hron.
“That steady pace continued in May, and we also welcomed the first of numerous wind energy cargo shipments scheduled to arrive throughout the summer. All in all, it’s been a good start to the season.”
Port Milwaukee has maintained its momentum through the early part of the international shipping season with the Port’s commercial tenants up 10 percent compared to the start of the season in 2018. “Total cargo via Milwaukee Harbor remains sturdy, averaging a 2% increase in overall economic activity when compared to May 2018,” said municipal port director Adam Schlicht.
He added, “Port Milwaukee’s ship-to-rail supply chain initiatives have already taken almost 500 trucks off of Wisconsin’s roads in 2019. With increased visibility of its commercial operations as well as strategic marketing to domestic and international customers, Port Milwaukee is enthusiastic about tonnage throughput despite a challenging trade environment impacted by tariffs. Inbound steel, cement and salt traffic will lead the way.”
The Port of Green Bay moved 265,600 tons in and out of the Port in May, making overall tonnage up 21% from the same time last year. The top contributors to this were coal, salt and petroleum products, which alone are up 190% from this time in 2018.
“In April, we moved over 168,500 tons, which was a great kick-off to the season; but May saw tonnage increase over that number by more than a third,” explained port director Dean Haen.
Meanwhile, the Illinois International Port District had just over 49,000 net tons of inbound cargo in May, mostly steel and metals. “While tonnage is starting off well, things have been slow due to the historic rise of all of the Great Lakes,” said Clayton Harris III, executive director of the Illinois International Port District.
“Many of the barges were delayed last month due to the rainfall and high-water levels throughout the system.”