I anticipate two major trends to continue into 2013: the continued resurgence of manufacturing in the Midwest and a greater appreciation and implementation of sustainability principles in the commercial navigation industry. I call them trends and not changes, because these developments are under way, but in 2013 they will intensify and firmly arrive on the scene in the wider consciousness.
North American manufacturing in and around the Great Lakes basin will enjoy increased expansion and growth in the coming year. A key driver is the resurgence of exploration in the region of traditional energy sources such as oil and gas. Manufacturing investments and capacity will continue to increase to directly serve the extraction and transportation of these sources. Moreover, as more oil and gas from the region is developed, relative costs will decrease, and manufacturing industries that rely on large amounts of energy can reduce their production costs and thereby increase their global competitiveness. Analysts are using the phrase “a renaissance in U.S. manufacturing” more frequently to describe this phenomenon.
In 2013, the concept of sustainability will become less of an ambiguous catchphrase and more of a tangible business decision in the commercial navigation industry on the Great Lakes Seaway System. For vessels that transit the St. Lawrence Seaway, the largest fleet renewal in more than a generation is under way, and 2013 will see the arrival of state-of-the art vessels in North American domestic and international trades. These ships will have the latest designs and technology to maximize their efficiency and minimize their environmental footprint. As shipping companies gain experience with implementing sustainability concepts, these principles will be driven further down the decision-making chain to more aspects of their business.