DULUTH, MN — Having a record year.
That’s the message from the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in the midst of the shipping season.
“It’s been a good season so far. It’s been solid,” said Jayson Hron, Director of Communications and Marketing for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
Hron said thanks to Mother Nature’s force the shipping season didn’t start out that way.
“This season started off slow, there was a pretty heavy amount of ice cover, more than average for the second season in a row, so there were some challenges in the beginning and once you lose time there’s no catching up.”
Once the ice melted, the natural resources port has continued to see steady numbers in coal, grain, iron ore, and wind energy cargo.
“We’re tracking toward about 35 million tons, which if we meet that total and exceed that total, it will be the third consecutive season that we’ve exceeded 35 million tons of cargo here in the Port of Duluth-Superior.”
A large part of that success comes from mines on the Iron Range.
“This season iron ore has once again been strong,” said Hron. “Currently through September we’re approximately 16 percent ahead of the five-season average and we are within one percent of last season’s pace to this point. And last season was a 23 season-high, so that’s a good number and if we can hit that again it would be great.”
The success can also be attributed to the energy sector.
“We set a single-season record for wind energy cargo this season in the Port of Duluth, breaking the record we had set in 2008, so we actually ended up at 308,000 freight tons of wind energy components.”
While Hron is pleased with the successes this year he said they’re always preparing for any challenges the industries might face.
“Looking ahead to 2020 there are some storm clouds we’re looking at in the iron ore market, there’s always the natural ebb and flow of demand for iron ore and, in addition to that, MN Power recently announced a proposed rate increase which could affect the mines. So it remains to be seen on that front. But the good news is not every storm cloud ends up to be a cloud burst, so we’ll wait and see.”
Over the weekend the National Weather Service issued it’s first Great Lakes Freeze-Up Outlook of the season and it’s predicting near-normal weather conditions and ice formation beginning in late December.
Hron said that means it will be a sprint to the finish from now until the Soo Locks close which is typically in mid to late January.