Shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes totaled 61.6 million tons in 2012, a slight improvement over 2011.
The increase, 245,000 tons, is equal to about four cargos in a 1,000-foot-long vessel operating at current drafts which are significantly reduced by the dredging crisis and falling water levels. If a vessel that size was able to load to depths available when the Lakes were at near record highs in 1997, it could carry that much cargo in 3.4 trips.
Shipments from U.S. ports totaled 53.7 million tons, a decrease of 2.5 percent compared to 2011. Included in that total were 3.7 million tons transshipped to Québec City for loading into oceangoing vessels.
Loadings at Canadian ports in the St. Lawrence Seaway totaled 7.9 million tons, an increase of 25.3 percent.
The first loads of 2013 make clear the dredging crisis and record low water levels will challenge the industry this year. The biggest cargos were just slightly over 60,000 tons. The record for the iron ore trade through the Soo Locks is 72,300 tons, and that cargo dates from 1997, the last time water levels approached record highs.