‘Remarkable’ year of grain and steel boosts Seaway season

With just one month left of the season, St. Lawrence Seaway cargo shipments are expected to finish ahead of 2013 after a remarkable year of grain exports and steel imports.

According to the St. Lawrence Seaway, total cargo shipments reached 34.6 million metric tons for the period from March 25 to November 30 — up 5 percent over the same period last year. Seaway management expect the season will close ahead of last year by a similar margin.

Grain shipments (Canadian and U.S.) tallied 10.1 million metric tons, up 44 percent over 2013. The vast majority of that uplift has come from record Canadian crops, but U.S. grain to date is also up by 30 percent. Grain shipments through the Port of Toledo have been at their highest level in four years.

Renewed construction activity and automotive manufacturing lifted steel shipments by 80 percent to 2.2 million metric tons this season with ports including Detroit, Toledo, Milwaukee and Cleveland all benefiting from the increase.

Weather was a factor at the Port of Oswego Authority in November.

“While there were some delays, the port continues to be on target with aluminum shipments,” said Zelko Kirincich, port executive director and CEO. “We received three shipments of aluminum on McKeil barges totaling 20,228 MT and we expect a peak in December as the season comes to a close.”

Nearly 2 million metric tons of new business also helped to offset decreases in iron ore and coal shipments this year. Close to a fifth of that total has been salt imports heading to destinations such as Detroit, Toledo and Milwaukee. These have been supplementing a huge demand by cities, towns, businesses, schools and hospitals for road salt from domestic mines. Salt shipments are up by 47 percent to 3 million metric tons.

Quick Fact

• The bi-national Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway marine industry generates $35 billion in business revenues and supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada.