Positive Outlook as St. Lawrence Seaway Opens the 2012 Season.
The steel and construction industries pushed the demand for North American commodities such as iron ore, stone and cement, and provided the 2012 shipping season with a solid start. The St. Lawrence Seaway reported that year-to-date total cargo shipments for the period March 22 to April 30 were 4.4 million metric tons, up 2.24 percent over the same period in 2011.
“Coal shipments, the Seaway’s second largest commodity by tonnage for more than a decade, registered a 40 percent increase in April to start off the waterway’s 2012 navigation season strong,” said Rebecca Spruill, Director of SLSDC’s Office of Trade Development. “Overall tonnage numbers reflected a modest jump over last year’s figures with the Seaway’s historic commodity leader—iron ore—posting strong gains (up 8 percent) to offset overall poor grain performance (down 9 percent).”
The North American steel industry is showing signs of continued improvement. Iron ore shipments through the Seaway rose to 1.1 million metric tons, which included transshipments to Quebec for international export. Bulk materials, which include among other items, construction materials such as stone and cement, increased by 15 percent to 1.2 million metric tons in April compared to the same month in 2011.
Coal shipments increased to 600,000 metric tons compared to the same period last year. Midwest Energy Resources Company which has a facility at the Port of Duluth-Superior expects to export 1.5 million metric tons of coal this year as they continue to build on their market strategy to expand their service area into Europe. Salt tonnage posted a 28 percent rise over last year to 328,000 metric tons as North American cities replenish their reserves for road salting next winter.
U.S. ports along the system are bullish on the season ahead. “Although it is still very early in the shipping season, the outlook is good,” said Joseph Cappel, director of cargo development at the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “In 2011, port tonnage surpassed 11.5 million tons for the first time since the 2007 season. That is a good indication that the economy is turning around in our region. For 2012, we can expect that iron ore and pig iron volumes will be solid in support of the steel industry. Construction aggregates like liquid asphalt, limestone and cement are also predicted to remain steady. We also hope that we can continue to support the wind industry by discharging blades, towers, nacelles and hubs for local wind farm projects.”
“Duluth is off to a strong start with heavy-lift and project cargoes this year,” said Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “We’re expecting nearly 20 ships with heavy machinery and other energy-related cargoes through the Port of Duluth-Superior during 2012, the majority of which will include components for U.S. wind energy projects.”
“The Port of Oswego Authority received the largest single shipment of aluminum to ever cross our docks – 10,000 tons arrived in the middle of April,” said Jonathan Daniels, executive director. “We felt that 2012 was going to be a solid year, but the first shipments have exceeded expectations and the projections are strong.”
Cargo volume at the Port of Cleveland rose 25 percent in April compared to the same period a year ago, as an uptick in manufacturing led to an increased demand for steel. “In April we received a charter vessel from Brazil carrying steel billets – a cargo we haven’t seen in more than five years,” said David Gutheil, the port’s vice president of maritime and logistics. “We are optimistic that our volumes through 2012 will remain strong as a result of both the growth in steel cargoes and our focus on marketing the port’s capabilities.”