Great Lakes prospects looking “great” for 2021 season

The CSL Group’s Baie St. Paul was the first vessel passing through the St. Lambert Lock at the (UPBEAT – continued on page 7) start of the 63rd Seaway season. (Photo by Alexanne Brisson)
The CSL Group’s Baie St. Paul was the first vessel passing through the St. Lambert Lock at the (UPBEAT – continued on page 7) start of the 63rd Seaway season. (Photo by Alexanne Brisson)

The 2021 season on the St. Lawrence Seaway/Great Lakes maritime corridor is barely two months old, but the overall outlook has been encouraging for ports and shipping lines closely involved in the waterway linking the Atlantic Ocean to the industrial heartland of North America.

Indeed, when commercial navigation opened in late March, various stakeholders were cautiously optimistic over bouncing back from what turned out to be relatively small pandemic-impacted decline in 2020.

Thanks to a big increase in grain shipments, total cargo had dropped by under 2% to 38 million metric tons last year. And this year, a target of 40 million tons looks reachable, industry analysts consider, as a recovery gains traction in key regions of the world economy, including North America, Europe and Asia.

Indeed, on the heels of last year’s bumper harvests, grain shipments were robust early in the season. So was the iron ore trade through U.S. Great Lakes ports showing strength while wind farm component shipments via the Seaway were expected to remain substantial.

“Moving goods by water through the Seaway ensures trade is flowing freely between the U.S. and Canada while also reducing emissions,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who participated in the virtual opening ceremony at the St. Lambert Lock near Montreal.

“After 62 years of operation, the binational Seaway System remains a model of international cooperation and partnership and showcases how we can work together to address the challenges of climate change,” he added.

“The Seaway’s consistently high level of system availability contributes to a robust, competitive Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway transportation route,” declared Terence Bowles, President and Chief Executive Officer of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “We provide convenient access to an impressive number of industries, ports, highway and rail networks.”

“Commercial navigation on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System is an economic foundation of the U.S. and Canadian economies,” underlined Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

According to the Cleveland-based Lake Carriers Association, which represents the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet, iron ore shipments on the Great Lakes totaled 5.6 million tons in April, an increase of over 8% from last year.

Year-to-date, the iron ore trade stood at 9.5 million tons, an increase of 15% compared to the same point last year. This was also 10% above the five-year average for four months of the year. Ports posting big gains were Duluth (MN), Superior (WI), Two Harbours (MN) and Presque Isle (MI).

For its…

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