Demand for Iron Ore & Steel Drives Activity Across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System
Washington, D.C. (September 15, 2021) – The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership today reported that American and Canadian ports in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System handled 20,723,000 metric tons of cargo shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway (Seaway) from the opening of the Seaway on March 22, 2021, through August 31, 2021 (i.e., Year-to-date or YTD). This is a 5.21 percent increase compared to shipments during the same time period in 2020. Additionally, total transits YTD reached 2,146 vessels, a 4.6 percent increase compared to transits through August last year. Commodities seeing a significant increase include iron ore, steel, as well as cement.
“At the midpoint of the Seaway’s navigation season, iron ore and steel products continue to be the standout commodities moving through the Great Lakes Seaway System,” said Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator, Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “Multiple vessels loaded with an array of steel products from over a dozen different countries arrived at U.S. Great Lakes ports in August, while iron ore exports to high demand countries including China, Japan, and South Korea saw a 29 percent tonnage increase compared to this time last year.”
Photo: Great Lakes Fleet, ARTHUR M. ANDERSON unloading iron ore in Burns Harbor, Indiana.
To learn more about iron ore movement and the steel supply chain across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region, watch the first installment of The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership’s American Anchor series.
|2021 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Key Performance Indicators**|
|Total Transits*||2,051||2,146||+ 4.63%|
|Total Cargo*||19,697,000 mt||20,723,000 mt||+ 5.21%|
|*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic
**All data is compared year-over-year (2020: Shipments from April 1 to August 31, 2020) (2021: Shipments from March 22 to July 31, August)
|2021 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Key Commodity Trackers***|
|Iron Ore*||3,534,000 mt||4,571,000 mt||+ 29.36%|
|Cement & Clinkers||1,020,000 mt
|Iron & Steel*||645,000 mt||1,258,000 mt||+ 95.07%|
|Gypsum||466,000 mt||587,000 mt||+ 26.04%|
|Coke*||481,000 mt||813,000 mt||+69.29%|
|Steel Slabs||245,000 mt||445,000 mt||+ 81.95%|
|*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic
**Percentages rounded to nearest tenth
***All data is compared year-over-year (2020: Shipments from April 1 to August 31, 2020) (2021: Shipments from March 22 to August 31, 2021)
Supporting America’s Farmers
Photo: Fednav FEDERAL DART loading agriculture cargo in Duluth, Minnesota.
As the fall harvest ramps up, farmers across the country are experiencing an increase in production. This is especially true in America’s heartland where grain shipments are projected to increase significantly. For several key Great Lakes states, it is predicted that corn and soybean yields will surpass 2020 results. With this demand for North American grain, Great Lakes Seaway shipping provides a reliable system to effectively transport cargo to food producers across the globe. “Traditionally, in the coming months, we should expect to see an uptick in grain movement for export primarily to Europe, South America, and Asia,” said Middlebrook.
Grain and agricultural facilities across the system are expected to be active throughout the season, increasing cargo handling of grain at U.S. Great Lakes ports, supporting American farmers’ fall harvest. “We are home to several very active grain terminals, including one of the largest flour mills in the world operated by Mondelez,” said Joe Cappel, VP of Business Development, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
To learn more about the movement of agricultural cargo across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region, watch the second installment of The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership’s American Anchor series.
Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority
Photo: Cleveland Cliffs HBI operation in Toledo, Ohio.
In August 2021, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority experienced a significant milestone, powered by the cargo movement of iron ore to the Cleveland Cliffs HBI operation in Toledo, Ohio.
“Registering at 6,159,559 short tons, cargo through the Port of Toledo remained strong through August 2021 exceeding 2020 totals by over 25 percent. Looking back, we have not surpassed 6 million tons through August since 2011,” said Joe Cappel, VP of Business Development, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “The additional iron ore tonnage attributed to the Cleveland Cliffs HBI operation has really helped elevate the Port to the next level and we continue to focus on updating our infrastructure to accommodate additional throughput. It’s exciting to think about the potential of this Port as we look toward the future.”
Port of Duluth-Superior
Photo: The Interlake Steamship Company, HON JAMES L OBERSTAR in Duluth, Minnesota.
Slowing slightly from a stifling July, total maritime tonnage through the Port of Duluth-Superior topped 3.8 million short tons in August 2021. For the season, more than 19.1 million short tons transited the port through Aug. 31, which ranks slightly ahead of the five-season average and more than 40 percent ahead of the 2020 pace.
Driven by strong demand for United States steel, the port’s August iron ore float exceeded 2.3 million short tons. This pushed the seasonal total to 11.9 million short tons through Aug. 31, which is 13.2 percent above the five-season average.
“August serves as the unofficial halfway mark of the Great Lakes shipping season, and with total tonnage through Duluth-Superior closing the month almost 5 percent ahead of the five-season average, it certainly qualifies as a good first half,” said Deb DeLuca, Executive Director, Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Amidst ongoing disruption in the global supply chain, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System has been, by comparison, an oasis of consistency so far in 2021.”
Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor
As we near the end of international vessel season, Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor remains strong. “Vessel tonnage increased 18.5 percent compared to last August 2020,” said Ryan McCoy, Port Director, Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor. “Year to date, Burns Harbor is still up 86 percent in our seaway/maritime business. Overall, all Burns Harbor tonnage is up 22.5 percent. August was a big month for project cargo and steel uploads. We are expecting an increase in bulk unloads for September and October as we close out the season.”
Great Lakes State Profile: Minnesota
Steel continues to be on the positive side of cargo tonnage for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway region. One Great Lakes State that experienced significant activity was Minnesota. Ports in the Great State of Minnesota saw 24 Laker vessels export iron ore to the Port of Quebec, for transshipment primarily to Asian countries. This is a 50 percent increase in the number of vessels hauling the cargo since last month.
On an annual basis, maritime commerce in the State of Minnesota supports:
- $1.4 billion in economic activity
- 6,161 jobs
- 2 million metric tons of cargo handled
- $413 million in personal income and local consumption expenditures
- $230 million in federal, state & local taxes
“This validates what we’ve long known – that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System is crucial to the US economy,” said Middlebrook. “The binational waterway not only provides a multitude of well-paying jobs – on land and at sea – it offers a cost-effective, safe and fuel-efficient means of moving goods to and from domestic and global markets.”
About the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System serves a dynamic economic region that includes eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. If the region were a country, it would have the 3rd largest economy in the world with a GDP of $5.5 trillion – larger than that of Japan, Germany, Brazil, or the United Kingdom. The region is home to 107 million people and accounts for almost 40 percent of the total cross-border trade between the U.S. and Canada.
Great Lakes-Seaway shipping is a foundation of this vibrant economy. More than 160 million metric tons of commercial cargo are transported on the waterway each year, providing low-cost and efficient transportation for the region’s manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and energy sectors. Great Lakes-Seaway shipping lifts American and Canadian economies on an annual basis by supporting:
- 237,868 jobs
- $35 billion in economic activity
- $14.2 billion in personal income and local consumption expenditures
- $6.6 billion in federal, state/provincial, and local tax revenue
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-St. Lawrence 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.
For more information, please visit www.greatlakesseaway.org.