Iron ore trade, a mainstay of Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping, plunged in December by 42 percent to 3.1 million net tons from 5.3 million a year ago, according to the Lake Carriers' Association.
The Cleveland-based group said December's performance in comparison with the month's five-year average "was even worse" as shipments fell from the 5.8 million-ton range.
The LCA ascribed the plunge to demand from U.S. steelmakers that weakened late in the year. Strong demand earlier helped boost full-year shipments to 59.2 million net tons from 58.1 million tons in 2007.
Great Lakes coal trade gained 1.3 percent to 39.8 million tons in 2008, but down nearly 1 million tons from the five-year average.
-- Courtney Tower