Washington, D.C. (January 19, 2020) – American and Canadian ports in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system reported that overall tonnage during the 2020 navigation season was down just 1.7 percent compared to the 2019 navigation season, despite facing a challenging year. 

Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said, “The Seaway’s 62nd navigation season was one of the most remarkable in history.  Despite all the challenges throughout the year, it was one of the safest and smoothest seasons on record. The final tonnage results continue to demonstrate the resilience of the binational waterway and its ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

Top-performing 2020 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway commodities


Metric Tons Handled



13,308,000 mt

27.1 percent increase*


2,439,000 mt

2.0 percent increase*


859,000 mt

32.8 percent increase*

Steel Slabs

503,000 mt

181.7 percent increase*


372,000 mt

30.9 percent increase*

*Percentages rounded to nearest tenth (compared year-over-year) 

2020 Navigation Season: American Port Highlights

Throughout the unprecedented year, several ports across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System saw major increases in wind cargo. For example, the Port of Duluth-Superior saw an increase of 219,000 freight tons in wind cargo compared to 2019 — the port’s previous record-breaking year.

“Looking beyond the numbers, this port’s emergence as a wind cargo hub is an important win for cargo diversity and also for the expansion of renewable energy nationwide,” said Deb DeLuca, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It’s been a difficult year under the cloud of a global pandemic, but this freight tonnage record is a much-appreciated highlight, made even better by the fact that Duluth Cargo Connect set records in consecutive seasons.”

Ian Hirt, Port Director for the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, was also optimistic about the uptick of wind components.

“The Port of Burns Harbor saw a total of 45 shipments of wind components, both via ship from overseas as well as domestic origins via deck barge,” said Hirt. “We also handled approximately 10 ships containing components for gas-powered electric generation stations as the U.S. Midwest shifts away from coal.”

At the Port of Cleveland, two major infrastructure programs wrapped up in 2020, including a 400-foot extension of the ore tunnel at the port's bulk terminal and an upgrade to the main gate at the general cargo terminal.

“The upgrades completed in 2020 will lead to much more efficient handling of cargo as well as an increase in throughput capacity,” Port of Cleveland Chief Commercial Officer David S. Gutheil said. “The main gate upgrade will also reduce wait times for trucks, enabling future cargo growth and reducing emissions.”

About the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership

The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership is a coalition of leading US and Canadian maritime organizations working to enhance public understanding of the benefits of commercial shipping in the Great Lakes Seaway region of North America. The organization manages an education-focused communications program, sponsors research and works closely with media, policy makers, community groups, allied industries, environmental stakeholders and the general public to highlight the positive attributes of marine transportation.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System is a marine highway that extends 2,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Approximately 143.5 million metric tons of cargo is moved across the System on an annual basis, supporting more than 237,868 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity.

For more information, please visit http://www.greatlakesseaway.org.