U.S. Agriculture & Domestic Steel Reinforced by Great Lakes Seaway Shipping

Best Month on Record for St. Lawrence Seaway System Traffic During 2018 Navigation Season

Washington, DC (October 17, 2018) – The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership reports overall gains for the St. Lawrence Seaway with year-to-date (YTD) total cargo shipments through September of 25.7 million metric tons, a four percent increase over the same timeframe last year. Key cargo categories contributing to these results include dry bulk commodities that support the domestic steel industry and grain from American farmers.

This continued demand keeps seaway traffic above the five-year average, maintaining the positive trend during the 2018 navigation season. Further, September was the busiest month on record for foreign-flagged vessels visiting the Seaway during the 2018 navigation season with transits of 64 vessels from 23 countries. This underscores the role the Great Lakes Seaway System plays in the global marketplace as a hub for domestic and international commerce.

“As we reach this milestone for the 2018 navigation season, achieving our best month thus far for traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway, we are reminded of the role the Seaway plays for the individuals and companies in the region we serve as well as the competitive advantage we provide to shippers that leverage the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System,” said Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “With access to over 50 percent of all U.S. households, business and manufacturing plants, our integrated waterway system connects shippers to this valuable market and optimizes their supply chain and transportation mix,” said Middlebrook.

Kickstarting American Steel

Under current conditions, including strong global demand,  the importance of increasing steel production domestically has become more apparent. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System has served as a reliable catalyst to reinforce the domestic steel industry, providing commodities required for steel manufacturing on-demand, using maritime transportation, the most efficient mode of transportation.

The Story for American Steel Begins in Minnesota

Northeastern Minnesota is rich with taconite. As an iron-bearing sedimentary rock, it is mined and concentrated into iron ore pellets that become a valuable commodity for American steel manufacturers located in the Midwest.

Duluth Harbor

Anchored by domestic trade, the Port of Duluth-Superior operates as a global gateway for bulk cargo entering the system, specifically iron ore. This was  clearly evident in September as the Port handled significant tonnage of commodities required by American steel manufacturers in Chicago, Burns Harbor, Toledo, Cleveland and Detroit.

The Interlake Steamship Company HERBERT C. JACKSON

The Interlake Steamship Company HERBERT C. JACKSON

“Demand for iron ore remained strong with year-to-date iron ore loadings through September already approaching 14 million short tons—a full 23 percent ahead of the five-year average,” said Adele Yorde, Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokesperson.


Supporting U.S. Farmers

As the fall harvest ramps up, farmers across the country are experiencing record production, which will ensure an excellent season for grain shipments from the Great Lakes Seaway System.

“Demand for grain also remained strong at the Port of Duluth-Superior this fall,” Yorde said. “Momentum carried over from August, with shipments of agricultural products running almost 20 percent ahead of last season.”

“Grain shipments including corn, wheat, oats, canola and soybeans were up 90 percent at the Port of Toledo, surpassing the 1-million-ton mark.” said Joe Cappel, VP of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We are home to several very active grain terminals, including one of the largest flour mills in the world operated by Mondelez.”

With this remarkable demand for North American grain, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway provides a reliable system to effectively transport cargo to food producers within the U.S. System and across the globe. 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’ exceptional fall harvest.

“Corn and soybeans are often available from ADM or The Andersons to reload upon oceangoing vessels bringing breakbulk or project cargo into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System. The Port expects a strong finish to the season with a busy schedule of international vessel traffic at the general cargo terminal operated by Midwest Terminals and continued activity at grain facilities,” Cappel said.


Top Performing Cargoes: YTD through September 2018

Cargo Metric Tons Percent Increase*
Liquid Bulk 3.3 million 27.7%
Coal 1.7 million 20.6%
U.S. Grain 1.5 million 45.6%
Cement & Clinkers 1.3 million 21.8%
Steel Slabs 487,000 32.7%
Stone 379,000 37.5%
Ores & Concentrates 189,000 141.77%

*All percentage increases compared to the same time last year


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. Approximately 160 million tons of cargo travels over the System on an annual basis, supporting more than 237,000 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity.

For more information, please visit www.greatlakesseaway.org.