The Port of Duluth-Superior is heading into the final three months of the 2010 shipping season with maritime leaders anticipating a strong finish. Recent tonnage reports indicate a 25 percent overall increase in year-to-date shipments, plus a robust grain trade that has already posted a staggering 89 percent increase over last year’s figures.
Through September, over 26.5 million short tons of cargo have moved through the Twin Ports. When the bottom fell out of the economy in 2009 and steel production slowed, shipments of raw materials dropped dramatically, but a critical demand for iron ore and coal on the lower Lakes drove sharp increases early in 2010. Through the first three quarters of this navigation season, iron ore shipments through Duluth-Superior continued to rebound and, while still lower than peak levels of 2008 and five-year averages, indicate a 69 percent improvement over last year—mirroring increased pellet activity across the Great Lakes.
Still, the grain surge remains the top story for this port. Up 15 percent above five year averages, year-to-date shipments rose 89 percent over the same time last year. In September alone, the port experienced a 123 percent increase in outbound grain shipments. Those cargoes—primarily durum wheat and spring wheat headed to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East—nearly doubled in response to shortages created by a Russian ban on grain exports this year.
“During a single week last month, we had 17 ships loading grain and/or at anchor waiting for a berth to open up,” said Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Grain from farmers’ fields in the Dakotas and Minnesota feed people around the world. This surge is a valuable reminder of the key role played by our inland port and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway in the global marketplace.”