Iron ore shipments on the Great Lakes totaled 6.4 million tons in May, a virtual repeat of a year ago. The total would have been about 600,000 tons more, but three 1,000-foot-long U.S.-flag lakers were out of service for a combined 65 days in May to repair damage suffered in the heavy ice that covered the Lakes in March and April.
Shipments from U.S. ports total 5.8 million tons, again virtually unchanged from a year ago. Loadings at Canadian terminals in the St. Lawrence Seaway increased marginally to 588,000 tons.
Rising water levels did allow for bigger loads than a year ago, but dredging remains very much needed. The largest iron ore cargo to move in May totaled 67,293 tons, an increase of 2,800 tons compared to a year ago. However, in May of 1997, a time when water levels were approaching near record highs and allowing vessels to load to almost their full draft, the top ore cargo totaled 69,961 tons, and before the season was out, some loads would top 72,000 tons.
Year-to-date the Lakes ore trade stands at 12.7 million tons, a decrease of 26 percent compared to a year ago. The decrease reflects the brutal ice conditions that prevailed well into April. It was not until May 2 that the U.S. Coast Guard allowed vessels to transit Lake Superior unescorted.