Great Lakes shipping on pace with 2018

A ship arrives at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. Great Lakes shipping is on par with 2018.

Despite a slow start caused by icy conditions, cargo shipments on the Great Lakes totaled 8.3 million tons through the end of May, which is on par with last year.

“Tonnage moving on the (Saint Lawrence) Seaway is running at about the same level as this time last year," U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook said. "Shipments of project cargo are particularly noteworthy, and a number of U.S. Great Lakes ports are reporting an outlook for continued movement of these high-value cargoes such as windmill components, cranes and heavy machinery.”

Cargo to inland ports on the Great Lakes, like the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in Porter County, has been way up in recent years.

“If the May pace continues, we should be able to build on the 17 percent Seaway cargo growth accumulated over the past two years,” said Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “U.S. Great Lakes ports are also reporting an acceleration in business. Two key growth areas are increased domestic and imported road salt and iron ore volumes due to domestic demand for steel production and exports of iron ore pellets from Minnesota to international locations like China.”

So far this year, Great Lakes shipments of grain are up 3.6%, iron ore 8.1%, liquid chemicals 9.9%, ores and concentrates 20.5%, and salt 62.1%, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce. Dry bulk cargoes hauled by international vessels that pass from the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence Seaway — a 2,300-mile maritime highway to the Great Lakes — are up 11% to 2.2 million tons during this shipping season.

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The Ports of Indiana have experienced a 7.2% increase year-to-date in cargos like rubber-tire gantry cranes bound for a CSX container yard in Illinois.

“Ports of Indiana continue to support economic growth in Indiana and throughout the Great Lakes region with an excellent start," CEO Vanta Coda II said. "We continue to grow, as has been seen the past four years, with increases in salt, export grain shipments, limestone and coal."

The Illinois International Port District handled 49,000 tons of inbound cargo in May, mainly steel.

“While tonnage is starting off well, things have been slow due to the historic rise of all of the Great Lakes,” said Clayton Harris III, executive director of the Illinois International Port District. “Many of the barges were delayed last month due to the rainfall and high-water levels throughout the system.”


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.