Coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, and iron ore from the U.S. Midwest and Canada began flowing to Europe Friday under new trade patterns for the 54-year-old waterway, created by demand from far away China.
The 54th navigation season on St. Lawrence Seaway opened March 22 at Montreal and the Welland Canal, which links Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Officials anticipate a 3 percent in traffic this year after seeing growth last year.
Bruce Hodgson, director of marketing for Canada’s St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., said cargo this year should reach 38.6 million metric tons, up from 37.5 million in 2011. Cargo increased 2.5 percent in 2011 from the year before.
The Seaway has always had two big staples, “iron ore in, grain out.” Now iron ore goes out as well as traditionally in to the steel plants of the Great Lakes basin. In 2011, U.S. iron ore exports began through the Seaway to Europe, which needs it make up for sources lost to China. Hodgson said he expects this traffic to continue.
European buyers need the commodity because their South African suppliers are supplying needs in China, he said. The U.S. export coal travels by rail from Montana and Wyoming to U.S. Great Lakes ports, where it is loaded onto Seaway vessels for shipment to Quebec City. There it is reloaded onto ocean vessels for transportation to Europe.
A tug and barge operation of McKeil Marine opened the Seaway season, another relatively recent development. It and others are used by Aluminerie Alouette, which operates a large aluminum smelter at Sept Iles, Quebec, to transport aluminum ingots to Great Lakes ports.
The Canadian administration for the bi-national Seaway announced it will continue a freeze on tolls charges on its 13-locks portion of the 15-lock system, for the fourth year. The toll freeze is accompanied by other incentives to attract new business.
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