Chesterton Tribune

St Lawrence Seaway shipping season off to solid start steel getting stronger

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The steel and construction industries are pushing the demand for North American commodities like iron ore, stone and cement, and have provided the 2012 shipping season with a solid start.

The St. Lawrence Seaway, in a statement released today, is reporting that year-to-date total cargo shipments for the period March 22 to April 30 were 4.4 million metric tons, up 2.24 percent over the same period in 2011.

“Coal shipments, the Seaway’s second largest commodity by tonnage for more than a decade, registered a 40 percent increase in April to start off the waterway’s 2012 navigation season strong,” said Rebecca Spruill, director of St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation’s Office of Trade Development. “Overall tonnage numbers reflected a modest jump over last year’s figures with the Seaway’s historic commodity leader—iron ore—posting strong gains (up 8 percent) to offset overall poor grain performance (down 9 percent).”

Meanwhile, the statement said, the North American steel industry is showing signs of continued improvement. Iron ore shipments through the Seaway rose to 1.1 million metric tons, which included transshipments to Quebec for international export. Bulk materials, which include, among other items, construction materials like stone and cement, increased by 15 percent to 1.2 million metric tons in April compared to the same month in 2011,

Coal shipments increased to 600,000 metric tons compared to the same period last year, the statement added. Midwest Energy Resources Company, which has a facility at the Port of Duluth-Superior, expects to export 1.5 million metric tons of coal this year as it continues to expand its service area into Europe.

Salt tonnage posted a 28 percent increase over last year to 328,000 metric tons as North American cities replenish their reserves for road salting next winter.

U.S. ports along the system are bullish on the season ahead. “Although it is still very early in the shipping season, the outlook is good,” said Joseph Cappel, director of cargo development at the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “In 2011, port tonnage surpassed 11.5 million tons for the first time since the 2007 season. That is a good indication that the economy is turning around in our region.”

“Duluth is off to a strong start with heavy-lift and project cargoes this year,” said Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “We’re expecting nearly 20 ships with heavy machinery and other energy-related cargoes through the Port of Duluth-Superior during 2012, the majority of which will include components for U.S. wind energy projects.”

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 raw materials and finished products which 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,” the statement said.

Posted 5/16/2012