Great Lakes Coal Trade Down 3 Percent in August

Lake Carriers Association
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
File Photo: Great Lakes Bulker

Shipments of coal on the Great Lakes totaled 2.9 million tons in August, an increase of 6 percent compared to July, but a drop of 3 percent compared to a year ago.  Compared to the month’s 5-year average, loadings were down 25 percent.


Overseas shipments continued in August.  Coal shipped to Québec City for reloading into oceangoing vessels totaled 196,000 tons.  For the season, the overseas trade totals 980,000 tons.


Water levels and the dredging crisis impacted the coal trade in August.  The Lakes are usually approaching their peak at this time of year and the season’s top cargos are often loaded in August.  However, water levels are plunging and only 17 of the 63 Federally maintained ports are being dredging this year.  The largest coal cargo shipped in August totaled only 64,678 tons, well below the record of 70,903 tons set in August 1997.


Year-to-date the Lakes coal trade stands at 14.5 million tons, a decrease of 7.7 percent compared to a year ago.  Loadings are nearly 28 percent behind the 5-year average for the January-August timeframe.


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.  Those cargos support more than 103,000 jobs with an average wage of $47,000.  More information is available at

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