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Great Lakes Seaway Ports Busy in May

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Great Lakes Seaway Profile

 Washington, D.C. (June 9, 2015) – The month of May was a busy one at U.S. ports along the Great Lakes Seaway System.

“Our Canadian and European trading partners kept U.S. Great Lakes ports extremely busy during the month of May,” said Betty Sutton, Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “Over 100 vessels arrived in the Great Lakes Seaway System carrying cargoes of windmill components, aluminum, clay, steel and iron ore.  Our ports are certainly ramping up for what looks to be another robust navigation season.”

While it may take awhile for shipments of iron ore and other bulk commodities to rebound, the 2015 shipping season is shaping up to be a strong year for project cargo at the Port of Duluth-Superior with upwards of 20 vessels booked so far. “Our Port Terminal has several heavy-lift shipments on the books for the oil and gas sector as well as multiple shiploads of wind turbine components slated to move through Duluth this year,” said Vanta Coda, Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director. Two ships carrying a total of nearly 140 wind turbine blades arrived in May, along with a load of machinery bound for Minnesota’s Iron Range.  Coda added: “We also see opportunity for smaller-lot customers to consolidate freight and fill ships now operating in the system with a mix of project cargo, machinery, specialty ag products and containers moving to/from Europe.  Duluth is a strategically-located North American hub, and to be able to utilize the Great Lakes navigation system to bypass road and rail congestion at coastal ports will go a long way toward expediting delivery schedules and streamlining supply chains.” Additionally, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority broke ground on May27 for its Port of Duluth Intermodal Project – a $17.7 million dock redevelopment project that will put an aging dock back into marine service and further enhance the Port’s heavy-lift and project cargo handling capacity. That project is slated for completion in the fall of 2016.

“Within the first two months of the 2015 season, international tonnage is up more than 20 percent compared to 2014,” said David Gutheil, Vice President for Maritime and Logistics at the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.  “We have handled numerous new cargo movements during April and May, including steel pipe from Europe that will be installed as a connector to a natural gas pipeline in Ohio.  In addition, the Cleveland-Europe Express (CEE) continues to gain traction in the market.  CEE tonnage has tripled compared to April and May 2014 due to a significant increase in container movements.  We continue to attract business from companies that have tired of continual congestion issues they face when moving their cargo through coastal ports.  Spliethoff has also added a full time Sales Representative to their staff in Cleveland who is solely focused on targeting and securing cargo for the CEE.”  

“Cargo volumes through the Port of Milwaukee are keeping pace with last year’s strong performance,” said Paul Vornholt, Port Director.  “Among the items shipped from Milwaukee in May was a locally manufactured mining shovel that was efficiently delivered through the Seaway System to Scandinavia.”

While grain imports are fairly uncommon at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, there was an exception during May. The port received 20,000 tons of organic corn and soybeans from Europe for distribution to users in the U.S.  “May shipments were strong,” said Port Director Rick Heimann. “Our overall year-to-date seaway shipments are right on target with our 2014 record year.”

The Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority shipped 15 General Electric locomotives through the St. Lawrence Seaway in the month of May.  The locomotives were constructed at the G.E. facility in Erie with a final destination in Indonesia.  “The Port of Erie continues to see increased exports from GE Transportation Systems and is optimistic that the trend will continue,” said Brenda Sandberg, Executive Director of the Port.


The St. Lawrence Seaway reported that year-to-date total cargo shipments for the period April 2 to May 31 were 6.4 million metric tons, down 7 percent over the same period in 2014. General cargo was up 5.11 percent overall with steel and project cargo shipments posting increases of 5.6 and 75 percent over 2014. U.S. grain shipments were up by 40 percent in May over last year.  The dry bulk category was up by 4 percent over 2014 with stone and cement in the positive column, at 11 and 10 percent respectively. Iron ore and coal – usually solid performers – were both down by 31 and 28 percent respectively. The liquid bulk category posted a downturn of 10 percent to 583 metric tons.


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