U.S. Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Ports Busy in November

American ports in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System report a busy November as businesses stockpile for the end of the year. In November, shipments of U.S. agriculture and wind turbine components remain steady as they have been throughout the 2020 navigation season, while steel movement picks up pace before the year’s end.

Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said, “As the 2020 Seaway navigation season heads into its final few weeks, we are encouraged by the amount of activity at our ports. Even though total tonnage is still not at last year’s levels for this time of year, the number of vessels transiting the Great Lakes Seaway System is significant.”

Amidst a challenging navigation season, overall tonnage across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System is down only 6.6 percent compared to this time last year, narrowing a 10.2 percent deficit reported in May 2020.

From the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway on April 1, 2020 through November 30, 2020, American and Canadian ports handled a total of 32.3 million metric tons (mt). At this time last year, American and Canadian ports handled a total of 34.5 million metric tons (mt).

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


Metric Tons Handled



10,945,000 mt

23.2 percent increase**


779,000 mt

31.1 percent increase*

Liquid Chemicals

436,000 mt

0.7 percent increase*

Steel Slabs

365,000 mt

127.9 percent increase*


347,000 mt

45.7 percent increase*

*Percentages rounded to nearest tenth (compared year-over-year)
**Combined U.S. and Canadian Grain 

American Ports Picking Up Pace, Moving International Cargos

American ports in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System were busy throughout November, trading with an estimated 40 countries across the world. During the month, ports such as Cleveland, Detroit and the Illinois International Port District, benefited from bustling international traffic that delivered critical cargos for global industries, like steel slabs, steel coils, timber and machinery.

“The last quarter of the year has been progressively trending upward. From a tonnage standpoint, our cargo continues to be diversified, which was one of our main goals,” said Dave Gutheil, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Cleveland. “We have seen some new cargos into Cleveland within the last two months, and we expect that to continue before the end of the season in 2020.”