Shipments at the Port of Indiana Burns Harbor are on pace to hit a new high since the recession, as the navigation season is winding down.
Last month's total tonnage that passed through the port in Portage jumped 16 percent, largely because of a bustling steel trade. The deepwater port on Lake Michigan's southern shore is on pace for its highest annual total in more than six years.
"Steel and steel-related byproducts continue to drive strong shipment numbers through the port in conjunction with a steady increase in other bulk commodities such as coal, fertilizer and limestone," port Director Rich Heimann said. "Looking ahead, we expect this trend to continue next month, as we already have on the books a shipment of distillery tanks from Germany bound for a brewery expansion in Chicago."
Steel is driving tonnage at Burns Harbor, but September shipments of iron ore and coal at U.S. ports were down by 18 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Iron ore and coal are the main raw materials in the steelmaking process.
Scrap metal shipments to the Great Lakes ports were up 22 percent in September, but grain posted the biggest gain. About 700,000 metric tons of U.S. grain passed through the ports, making a 27 percent year-to-date increase over the same period last year.
Year-to-date cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes are down 11 percent, as compared to last year. About 23 million tons have been shipped between March 22 and Sept. 30.
The shipping season ends soon.
"At least a dozen ships from Europe unloaded steel products at the ports of Cleveland, Milwaukee, Burns Harbor and Detroit over the past month – a clear sign that the end of the navigation season is approaching and shippers are working diligently to get products out of the mills and into the Seaway System before the end of the year," said Rebecca Spruill, director of trade development for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp.
"Although overall cargo tonnage is down, September provided many positives signs that the next three months will be extremely busy for our ports and terminal operators in the Great Lakes-Seaway System."