Shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes totaled 58.3 million tons in 2013, a decrease of 5.3 percent from 2012. While the trade had been slightly behind 2012’s pace through November, the gap grew significantly when an early and harsh start to winter limited shipments to 5.1 million tons in December, a decrease of 20 percent compared to a year ago. There were weather-related delays at loadings docks and vessels were either slowed by or beset in heavy ice.
Shipments from U.S. Great Lakes ports totaled 51.8 million tons in 2013, a decrease of 3.5 percent compared to a year ago. December loadings were again almost 20 below the level of a year ago. Another factor affecting shipments from Lake Superior ports was a voluntary reduction in loaded drafts toward the end of the month to facilitate transits of an ice-clogged stretch of the St. Marys River. Some companies reduced loaded drafts by more than a foot between Christmas and New Year’s. For a 1,000-foot-long vessel, that reduced draft translated into 4,000 tons of taconite pellets left at the loading dock.
Shipments from Canadian ports to Great Lakes destinations totaled 6.5 million tons in 2013, a decrease of 18.2 percent compared to 2012. Heavy ice developed in the Seaway and that segment of the iron ore trade was down nearly 27 percent in December.
Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes and carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain. Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo per year.