U.S. Ports Defy Slower August Trend – Report Positive Tonnage

Monday, September 19, 2011

U.S. ports reported upticks in tonnage during the normal summer slowdown period. The Seaway’s year-to-date total cargo shipments from March 22 to August 31 were 22 million metric tons, up 3.5 percent from the same period last year.

 

“In addition to the cargo shipments increase, vessel transits are up 9 percent from a year ago with the best performers in August being petroleum products, scrap metal and salt. This number shows that the marine trade, even in today’s tough economic times, can grow when you match demand with supply,” said Rebecca Spruill, Director of Trade Development for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

 

At the Port of Duluth-Superior, two tenants have found new markets and new partners that have increased their business and changed their market base. Midwest Energy Resources Company (MERC) has partnered with Quebec Stevedoring’s Beauport Sector dock in Quebec City to form a seamless supply route for customers across the Atlantic. “MERC has been able to capitalize on the increased demand for U.S. low-sulphur coals in international markets,” said Fred Shusterich, MERC President. “The world wants U.S. coal, but there are capacity issues at U.S. coastal ports. Our route puts us one-third the ocean distance of the Gulf ports to Europe, so we are well-positioned to be a strong player in the coal export market.”

 

The MERC goal was to handle one export shipment this season, but will likely export 200,000 metric tons of coal to Europe by year-end. “Continued growth, exploring new markets and responding to changes in the North American energy market provides impetus to expand our service area,” added Shusterich, who expects shipments to grow next year. “To slingshot to 1.5 million metric tons in coal exports by the end of 2012 is testimony to the ingenuity of our staff and the flexibility of our terminal and the Seaway. It truly is a global gateway.”

 

The second Duluth-Superior tenant to make inroads overseas is Cliffs Natural Resources. The global demand for high-quality iron ore concentrate is on the rise – particularly in countries with emerging economies like China and India – and that demand is coupled with higher international iron ore prices. As a result, Cliffs moves ore from its mines in Minnesota and Michigan to Quebec City via the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system. From that Canadian port, ocean-going vessels can transload/transport pellets to steelmakers worldwide.

 

“It is a unique venture, with the pellets going to Canada first, then China,” said Don Gallagher, Cliffs’ Executive Vice President-Global Commercial. “Demand is strong. We are marketing globally, because that’s where the higher demand is.” Cliff’s first shipment of Minnesota iron ore took place on March 30, bound for China via the Seaway.

 

For the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, August was the biggest tonnage month of the year and their second highest monthly total since 2007. “The port enjoyed one of its best years on record,” said Port Director Peter Laman. “This August, tonnage was up 40 percent from last year this time. Overall we’re up 24 percent year-to-date due primarily to increases in fertilizer, steel, and limestone, as well as new coal shipments.”

 

“Indiana’s economy depends heavily upon our Lake Michigan connections to ocean vessels via the St. Lawrence Seaway, lake carriers transiting the Soo Locks, and river barges moving through the Chicago Area Waterway System. These waterways move vital goods to and from businesses throughout the Midwest and generate more than 100,000 jobs for Indiana.” The Port of Cleveland’s tonnage was up almost 535,000 metric tons versus the same time period last year, an increase of approximately 25 percent. That increase was driven by a 26 percent uptick in Cleveland Bulk Terminal tonnage, which moves iron ore and limestone to ArcelorMittal, and a 9 percent increase in their general cargo operation.

 

“The steel industry in our region is enjoying more demand, which has resulted in an increase in the volume of raw material moving through our port’s facilities,” said David Gutheil, Vice President for Maritime and Logistics. “In addition, our general cargo operation continues to recover from the historic lows of two years ago thanks to an increase in steel imports coming through the port to satisfy demands for steel not met by U.S. steel producers.”
At the Toledo Port Authority, general cargo is up over 55 percent over the same period in 2010. “In total, the port has handled over 6.7 million short tons to date, and is up nearly 12 percent over 2010 with increases in all cargo categories – general cargo, grain, iron ore, petroleum products, and dry bulk – with the exception of coal,” explained Joseph Cappel, Director, Cargo Development.
 

St. Lawrence Seaway shipments of petroleum products and salt remained up 70 percent and 18 percent respectively in August compared to the same month last year. Coal shipments totaled 465,000 metric tons in August, a decrease of 30 percent from August 2010. Year-to-date iron ore shipments of 5.4 million metric tons were down 21 percent compared to the same period last year primarily due to the continued closure of the U.S. Steel plant in Hamilton, Ontario. Year-to-date U.S. grain shipments of 931,000 metric tons were down 7 percent, while Canadian grain shipments were up 35 percent to 893,000 metric tons in August.

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