Steel shipments on Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System uplift American manufacturing

Steel shipments on Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System uplift American manufacturing

August tonnage report shows uptick in steel shipments

The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership announced cargo volumes for commercial shipping through the St. Lawrence Seaway System through August. The report indicates robust steel and aluminum shipment activity throughout the 2022 season to date.

“Much as it has throughout my 27 years of service to the Seaway Development Corporation, Great Lakes port activity in August highlights the critical role that the Seaway’s maritime supply chain plays in delivering steel in support of the Midwest manufacturing sector,” said Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator, Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “The resilience of this shipping lane is a testament to the innovation and investment made by the bi-national Seaways and our Great Lakes ports to maintain the Seaway System as one shippers can rely on.”

Through August, the Seaway System has moved 1,300,000 metric tonnes of steel, a nearly four percent increase compared to the same point in 2021. U.S. grain shipments also remain relatively high with 557,000 metric tonnes moved in August, an increase of almost 30 percent from last year.

It’s estimated that U.S. Great Lakes ports traded with at least 23 countries during the month of August, compared to 27 in July.

Below are the key freight performance indicators and commodity trackers comparing tonnage numbers through August, 2022 to the same period of 2021.

2022 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Key Performance Indicators**
2021 2022 Change (+/-)
Total Transits* 2,187 2,211 +1.10%
Total Cargo* 21,049,000 mt 19,185,000 mt -8.85%
*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic

**All data is compared year-over-year (2021: Shipments from April 1 to August 31, 2021) (2022: Shipments from March 22 to August 31, 2022)


2022 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Key Commodity Trackers***
2021 2022 Change (+/-)**
Iron & Steel* 1,282,000 mt 1,333,000 mt +3.92 %
U.S. Grain 431,000 mt 557,000 mt +29.20%
Coke* 879,000 mt 1,154,000 mt +31.82%
Potash* 206,000 mt 756,000 mt +267.46%
Scrap Metal* 27,000 mt 35,000 mt +29.17%
Petroleum Products* 1,044,000 mt 1,464,000 mt +40.16%
Other General Cargo 54,000 mt 129,000 mt +137.98%
*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic

**Percentages rounded to nearest tenth

***All data is compared year-over-year (2021: Shipments from April 1 to August 31, 2021) (2022: Shipments from March 22 to August 31, 2022)


August highlights from American Great Lakes ports

Lake Michigan

Shipments to Chicago’s Illinois International Port District (IIPD) in August carried a diverse range of commodities, including steel and wind energy equipment materials.

“The range of commodities that have been coming through our docks are indicative of the strong economic activity in Chicago and around the Great Lakes region,” said Erik A. Varela, executive director of the Illinois International Port District. “The IIPD welcomed multiple shipments of steel and wind energy products last month and we look forward to continuing to supply various sectors with the materials they need to succeed.”

Lake Erie

The Port of Cleveland was another Great Lakes port that stood out during August for its high volume of inbound steel shipments.

“As a leading destination for steel shipments, the Port of Cleveland is proud to supply a strong domestic manufacturing sector in the Midwest and across the country,” said William D. Friedman, president and CEO of the Port of Cleveland. “Thanks to meaningful federal investments made through recent legislation, the future of American manufacturing is bright and we look forward to contributing to it.”

In August 2022, the Port of Toledo handled over one million tons of cargo and outpaced the 2021 season to date by 13 percent. Notably, Toledo’s docks received multiple shipments of aluminum last month.

“It’s great to see tonnage up this year and we are equally excited by all of capital improvement projects taking place at the Port of Toledo,” said Joseph Cappel, VP of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.  “The projects at the Toledo Shipyard and general cargo dock represent approximately $25 million in investment and will help ensure the resiliency and long-term viability of these facilities for decades to come.  In addition, we are working with our terminal operators to make even more space available at the Port for material handling and projects involving rail and vessel transloading. We are always looking ahead and planning for future growth and new opportunities at the Port of Toledo.”

 Detroit River

The Port of Detroit was also a key port of call for inbound steel shipments during August.

“We’re happy to see the rebound in steel shipments in August – this is a good sign for metro Detroit manufacturers.” said Mark Schrupp, executive director of the Port of Detroit. “The Port of Detroit is happy to play a role in helping our local economy and our manufacturers create jobs.”

Lake Ontario

The Port of Oswego was productive in August with inbound shipments of aluminum, wind energy equipment, and asphalt as well as an outbound grain shipment.

“The Port of Oswego continues to boost our local economy while helping address international challenges,” said William W. Scriber, executive director of the Port of Oswego. “In August, we sent our first shipment of corn to Europe which is particularly critical given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the resulting grain shortage there.”

Lake Superior

August brought the Port of Duluth-Superior its best monthly tonnage total since July 2021, with more than 4 million short tons of maritime cargo transiting North America’s furthest-inland seaport. The 13-month high pushed Duluth-Superior’s season-to-date total past 16.6 million tons. In total, the port counted 94 vessel arrivals in August, its most in a single month since August 2019.

“It was a very good month for maritime shipping—and for ship-watching enthusiasts—in the Port of Duluth-Superior, and we’re hoping the late-summer rally extends through the fall and early winter,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.