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Great Lakes cargo up nearly 4% at start of shipping season

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Great Lakes cargo up 4% at start of shipping season

A ship is shown at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.

International shipping on the Great Lakes rose nearly 4% at the start of the shipping season as a result of an improving economy in North America.

Shipments that passed through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Great Lakes, en route to ports like the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, rose 3.7% year-over-year to 4 million tons between March 22 and April 30.

The St. Lawrence Seaway — a system of 15 locks between Montreal and Lake Erie that allows ocean-going vessels to make their way to the Great Lakes — has reopened for a new navigation season.

“Marine shipping is a bellwether for what’s happening in the wider economy. These first numbers of the Great Lakes-Seaway shipping season, particularly the increased demand for construction and steel-making materials, are a positive sign that the U.S. and Canadian economies continue to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

Iron and steel cargoes rose 58% in April as compared to last year. General cargo shipments were up 23.2% and construction materials up 1.6%.

Grain, one of the top cargos moving through the Great Lakes last year, rose by nearly 10% in April.

Coming Sunday, ride along with Specialist Dyer as he patrols LaPorte.

“The Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor has had a solid first quarter with an increase of more than 10% tonnage year-over-year to date,” said Ports of Indiana CEO Vanta Coda II. “We believe this year’s project cargo and bulk commodities will be strong and see steel coming back to more normalized levels. With the economy getting stronger, 2021 looks to be a good bounce-back year for our customers.”

The Port of Toledo also had a strong start to the 2021 shipping season.

“We’ve already handled over one million tons of iron ore which is a good indication that steel demand will be strong in 2021,” said Joseph Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We are excited about the 2021 shipping season for several reasons. The Cleveland Cliffs hot briquetted iron facility will be in full production this year which will drive substantial vessel activity at the Ironville terminal."

Overall iron ore shipments rose 7% to 703,000 tons in April.

“We are pleased to see a solid start to the 2021 Great Lakes Seaway System navigation season, with overall tonnage tracking with the five-year average," said Craig Middlebrook, deputy administrator of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Inbound shipments of steel and project cargo and iron ore exports are keeping our ports busy early in the season.”


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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.

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Shipment of iron ore – a key raw material that feeds the blazing blast furnaces at Northwest Indiana's lakefront steel mills  – have risen more than 7% year-over-year to 1.4 million tons thus far this shipping season.

U.S. steel mills shipped 8.27 million tons of steel in July, a 37.2% increase, according to the Washington D.C.-based trade association the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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