The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System Continues to Be Strong Supply Chain for Wind Energy

Ports of Erie, Burns Harbor, and Duluth see wind energy cargo on eight ships from five countries

Washington, D.C. (August 18, 2021) – The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership today reported that American and Canadian ports in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System saw 1,733 total transits from the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway on March 22, 2021 through July 31, 2021, a 6.19 percent increase compared to transits through July last year. Commodities seeing an increase include iron ore, containers, steel, and wind energy cargo.

Through July, all cargo shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway reached 16,669,000 metric tons, up 4.64 percent compared to shipments during the same time in 2020.

Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said, “July was a good month for project cargo moving through the Seaway System, with a notable resurgence in shipments of windmill components. The wind energy supply chain continues to be strong, with vessels bringing these cargoes from five different countries last month.  Exports of iron ore remain strong due to sustained worldwide demand, and steel tonnage continues to be robust, driven by activity in the manufacturing and construction sectors.”

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**
  2020 2021 Change (+/-)
Total Transits* 1,632 1,733 + 6.19%
Total Cargo* 15,930,000 mt 16,669,000 mt + 4.64%
*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic

**All data is compared year-over-year (2020: Shipments from April 1 to July 31, 2020) (2021: Shipments from March 22 to July 31, 2021)


2021 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Key Commodity Trackers***
  2020 2021 Change (+/-)**
Grain* 4,795,000 mt 4,196,000 mt – 12.48%
Iron Ore* 2,884,000 mt 3,534,000 mt + 22.51%
Iron & Steel* 539,000 mt 1,020,000 mt + 89.11%
Containers 21,000 mt 25,000 mt + 18.56%
Coke* 342,000 mt 662,000 mt + 93.37%
*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic

**Percentages rounded to nearest tenth

***All data is compared year-over-year (2020: Shipments from April 1 to July 31, 2020) (2021: Shipments from March 22 to July 31, 2021)


American Great Lakes Ports Speak to Strong Month of July for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Navigation Season

Port of Duluth


Nearly 4.2 million short tons of maritime cargo transited the Port of Duluth-Superior in July 2021, pushing the port’s season-to-date tonnage total over 15.2 million through July 31. It marked Duluth-Superior’s largest July float since 2015, helping nudge total tonnage 6 percent above the five-season average and 40.5 percent ahead of last season’s pace.

Gallery: The BBC Xingang came into the Duluth Harbor on Friday morning carrying a cargo of wind turbine tower segments.

Iron ore tonnage continued its climb, topping 9.5 million short tons to finish July 12.6 percent above the five-season average and 31 percent ahead of the 2020 pace. Coal and petcoke also moved briskly, topping 1 million tons in July and 3.6 million tons for the season. This total represents a three-fold increase over the 2020 pace. Other notable bulk cargo highlights included cement and salt deliveries, outpacing the five-season average by 59 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. July general cargo deliveries included a shipment of heavy-duty mining equipment for iron-mining operations in northeastern Minnesota.


Through July, vessel arrivals in the Port of Duluth-Superior totaled 334, which outpaced the 2020 count by 28.5 percent.


“It’s been a good first half of the shipping season so far and a vigorous rebound from the COVID challenges of 2020,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It’s been especially good to see iron ore tonnage jumping back above the five-season average because it’s a bellwether of positivity for our port and our region as a whole.

“Each ore ship carries between $7 million and $8 million in ore value, so while they’re moving a key raw material of everyday life, they’re also moving a sizable amount of commerce for our communities and the North American economy.”



Ports of Indiana- Burns Harbor


“The Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor had a fantastic July,” said Ryan McCoy, Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor port director. “International vessel tonnage increased 228 percent compared to last July 2020. Year-to-date, Burns Harbor is up more than 115 percent in our seaway/maritime business. Overall, all Burns Harbor tonnage is up 24 percent. With this influx, our customers are taking advantage of the versatility of our Port and properties. We are able to offer unique storage options within close proximity to their processing facilities that they couldn’t find outside of our port setting. All indications point to a robust end of the year and strong 2022 shipping season, as well.”


About the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System


The Great Lakes-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 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, supporting more than 237,868 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity.


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