A jump in coal shipments helped boost cargo volume on the Saint Lawrence Seaway up 2.2 percent in the first five weeks of the waterway season in 2012.
Coal shipments, the second-largest shipped commodity on the international seaway, rose 40 percent year-over-year between March 22 and April 30. An 8 percent increase in iron ore volume helped offset a 9 percent drop in grain volume in the same period.
Much of the gains in traffic are caused by the strengthening of the North American steel industry, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. Shipments of bulk materials, including stone and cement, rose 15 percent so far this season from the same period a year ago.
The SLDC expects volume to increase 3 percent year-over-year this shipping season, after 2011 volume rose 2.7 percent from the prior year. U.S. ports reflected SLSDC optimism that traffic in the 2012 shipping season could continue to make year-over-year gains.
“Duluth is off to a strong start with heavy-lift and project cargoes this year,” said Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “We’re expecting nearly 20 ships with heavy machinery and other energy-related cargoes through the Port of Duluth-Superior during 2012, the majority of which will include components for U.S. wind energy projects.
The Port of Oswego handled its largest single shipment of aluminum in mid April, while volume at the Port of Cleveland rose 25 percent year-over-year in the same month.
“In April we received a charter vessel from Brazil carrying steel billets — a cargo we haven’t seen in more than five years,” said David Gutheil, the Port of Cleveland’s vice president of maritime and logistics. “We are optimistic that our volumes through 2012 will remain strong as a result of both the growth in steel cargoes and our focus on marketing the port’s capabilities.”