Total cargo movement on the Great Lakes by U.S.-flagged vessels reportedly declined by 4.6 percent in 2012
The Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) reports that shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes totaled 61.6 million tons in 2012, a slight improvement over 2011’s figures. The 245,000-ton increase is equal to about four cargos in a 1,000-foot-long vessel operating at current drafts, which are significantly reduced by the dredging crisis and falling water levels. In a release, the LCA notes that if a vessel that size was able to load to depths available when the Great Lakes were at near record highs in 1997, it could carry that much cargo in 3.4 trips.
Shipments from U.S. ports totaled 53.7 million tons, a decrease of 2.5 percent compared to 2011. Included in that total were 3.7 million tons transshipped to Québec City, Quebec, for loading into oceangoing vessels.
Loadings at Canadian ports in the St. Lawrence Seaway totaled 7.9 million tons, an increase of 25.3 percent.
According to the LCA, the first loads of 2013 make clear the dredging crisis and record low water levels will challenge the industry this year. The biggest cargos were slightly more than 60,000 tons. The record for the iron ore trade through the Soo Locks is 72,300 tons, and that cargo dates from 1997, the last time water levels approached record highs.
Meanwhile, the LCA reports that total cargo movement on the Great Lakes by U.S.-flagged vessels declined by 4.6 percent in 2012.
The association notes that U.S.-flag freighters (lakers) carried 89.5 million tons of dry-bulk cargo in 2012, a decrease of 4.6 percent compared to 2011. The 2012 float was 1.5 percent off the 5-year average for U.S.-flag lakers.
U.S.-flag lakers carried 45.2 million tons of iron ore in 2012, or 73.3 percent of the total volume of iron ore moved on the Great Lakes last year. The 45.2 million tons of iron ore carried by U.S.-flag lakers represented a decrease of 4.3 percent from 2011.
Coal cargos moved in U.S. bottoms totaled 17.6 million tons in 2012, or 69.3 percent of the total volume of coal moved on the Great Lakes last year. The 17.6 million tons of coal carried by U.S.-flag lakers represented a decrease of 13.1 percent from 2011.
The limestone trade in U.S.-flag hulls totaled 21.8 million tons in 2012, or 79 percent of the total volume of limestone moved on the Great Lakes last year. The 21.8 million tons of limestone carried by U.S.-flag lakers represented an increase of 1.7 percent (360,000 tons) over 2011.
Year-end totals for other commodities are not yet available for vessels of all flags, but U.S.-flag cargos of cement increased 13 percent. Loadings of salt in U.S.-flag lakers slipped almost 30 percent. The sand trade in U.S. bottoms was virtually unchanged from 2011, but grain cargos in U.S.-flag hulls rose 31 percent.
The LCA represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes. The LCA adds that collectively, the vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo per year.