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Great Lakes, Seaway shipping coming back from paralyzing ice fields
July was the best month for U.S. freighters on the Great Lakes in two years, and St. Lawrence Seaway cargo has almost made up for the season’s crippling start when ships faced miles of ice into May.
Story by Mike Simonson.
U.S. Seaway Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook says the increase in foreign shipping makes the St. Lawrence Seaway a kind of “comeback kid”.
“To use a baseball analogy, we’re on a month-to-month winning streak here. July is pretty much a continuation of June, which makes it the third strong month in a row.”
15 million tons of cargo moved from the Great Lakes through the Seaway to the Atlantic last month. Middlebrook says that puts them just 4% off last year's numbers. He says while iron ore was down 37%, grain was up 55% and general cargo up 61% in July.
“Automobiles and other types of heavy manufactured consumer goods, durable goods and things like that. That’s a real indication of the resiliency of the strength of the economy.”
U.S.-flagged lakers toted 11 million tons in July…up 10% from last July. Duluth-Superior Port Director Vanta Coda says they’re catching up from the ice fields of April and early May that nearly paralyzed shipping.
"It’s progress. We can’t make it all up overnight. It seems like the Seaway and the Great Lakes are doing some of that catching up.”
Both say this month will be critical as ports get busier in the push to increase stockpiles so businesses that use coal, iron ore and grain can stock up for the winter. Coda is optimistic.
"I should throw in the caveat, if we have another December like last year, probably not.”
Coda and Middlebrook says another x-factor is whether or not railroads can carry these commodities to ports, with the additional demands of Bakken crude oil on their lines.
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