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St. Lawrence Seaway cargo shipments rise at U.S. ports

Washington, D.C. – U.S. ports throughout the Great Lakes uniformly saw increased tonnage in several cargo categories during the month of June.

“Salt, chemicals, and steel all posted excellent tonnage numbers through June when compared to last year’s figures,” said Rebecca Spruill, director of trade development for the SLSDC. “We’re rapidly making up ground for the slow start to the season imposed by a winter lasting well into April. Our U.S. ports are encouraged by the increase in traffic, most notably salt, registering a double digit percentage increase, dry chemicals which saw a threefold tonnage increase, and high value general cargo on track to top 2.5 million tons.”

The Port of Cleveland is off to an outstanding start to the 2014 shipping season. “Our international tonnage is up approximately 23 percent through June compared to 2013. In addition, the Cleveland-Europe Express, our new liner service between the Port of Cleveland and the Port of Antwerp that started in April, more than doubled our revenue in June compared to both April and May,” said David Gutheil, vice president of maritime and logistics. “We continue to see positive momentum in the market for this service, and the interest is coming from a much broader geographic base than we originally anticipated.  We have handled cargo from as far away as Iowa, and to countries in southeast Asia and the Middle East in addition to the European continent.”

“Industry spirits were buoyed by strong gains in cargo movements during the month of June,” noted Vanta Coda, Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director. “We had two ships from Europe arrive loaded with energy-related project cargo destined for North Dakota and Alberta, Canada. Coal and iron ore tonnages were up by 16 and 7 percent respectively over May. And, both commodities were running ahead of where they stood a year ago – coal up 17 percent in June 2014 and iron ore up nearly 48 percent compared to the same month’s totals in 2013.” Coda acknowledged that the year-to-date snapshot is a bit more sobering – total tonnage for the port is still off 17 percent.  However, he was quick to point out, “We’re moving in the right direction, having made double digit gains in most commodity groups during June.”

Shipments at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor were up over 40 percent from the previous year, driven primarily by steel-related cargoes that more than doubled the 2013 mid-year totals. Ocean shipments remained steady through the first half of 2014, up slightly from the previous year as a result of continued steel trade with European ports and fertilizer deliveries to local farmers. Through June, the Port handled significant increases in steel (up 130 percent), grain (up 70 percent), limestone (up 25 percent), and minerals (up 20 percent). “The increases are certainly a good sign for the regional economy, especially in the manufacturing sector,” said Rick Heimann, port director.

“Despite this year’s late start due to ice conditions, we have managed to catch and surpass last year’s tonnage total.  The surge in May and June can be attributed to more coal, general cargo and dry bulk shipments moving through Toledo. So far this year we have seen more overseas traffic than in previous years,” said Joe Cappel, director of cargo development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “Diversified overseas trade including inbound sugar, pig iron, fertilizer and steel and outbound corn, soybeans, and bulk materials has helped make a difference this year. We hope that the momentum will continue for the balance of the 2014 season.”

“The Port of Oswego has accepted shipments of approximately 16,000 metric tons of aluminum in June contributing toward a year record projected to be 100,000 tons in 2014,” said Zelko Kirincich, executive director at the port. “The growth of the Novelis automotive business has continued to fuel the growth of aluminum shipments through the Seaway System contributing to the diversity of the port’s cargo base.”

Tonnage at the Port of Green Bay was up 28 percent over 2013 to 350,654 metric tons. “June’s increase is helping to close the gap on year-to-date numbers which are now only four percent below last year’s mark,” said Dean Haen, director of Brown County Port and Resource Recovery Department.  “The biggest jump was the shipment of limestone, which increased by 63 percent to 147,072 metric tons compared to 2013.”

The Port of Muskegon, a new member of the AGLPA, is looking forward to the August arrival of three additional shipments of wind turbine components from Germany. “The Port of Muskegon not only has a significant historical past, but will play an important role as new technologies such as wind energy generation and other large scale or bulk cargoes representing new business and industry interests require water based transportation assistance,” said T. Arnold Boezaart, Muskegon County Port Advisory Committee member.

The St. Lawrence Seaway reported that year-to-date total cargo shipments for the period March 28 to June 30 were 11.2 million metric tons, down 7 percent over the same period in 2013. Iron ore and coal – usually solid performers – were both down by 37 and 21 percent respectively. General cargo was up 44 percent overall with steel and project cargo shipments posting increases of 111 and 119 percent over 2013. U.S. grain shipments were down by 8 percent in June over last year. The liquid bulk category posted a downturn of 25 percent to just over 1 million metric tons. The dry bulk category was also down by 2.5 percent over 2013. However, within that category, stone, salt, cement and gypsum were all in the positive column, with stone at a 78 percent hike.