Join our crew and become one of the 104,998 members that receive our newsletter.

port of deluth

A ship at the Port of Duluth. Photo: The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership

Great Lakes Shipping Sees Strong Start to the Season Led by Grain Exports

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1619
May 20, 2022

Shipping on the Great Lakes has kicked off with a bang this season as ports in the region step up to fill the global void of grain caused by the war in Ukraine.

The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership (GLSP) said grain exports out of the U.S. through the Great Lakes reached 176,000 metric tons since the start of the season in March, a 175% increase from the 64,000 exported during the same time frame last year.

Imports of renewable energy components, particularly wind, are also up.

“In times like this, it is reassuring to see our ports in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System working hard to keep the supply chain moving,” Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said. “The Great Lakes Seaway marine transportation system is critical infrastructure, and remains vital to keeping commerce flowing without disruption in order to support North America’s agricultural, manufacturing, construction, energy, and mining industries.”

Looking at individual ports, the Port of Oswego on Lake Ontario received one shipment of wind equipment from South Korea and two shipments of aluminum from Quebec, while it exported a shipment of soybeans to Ireland. The Port of Oswego has also stepped up to help meet global grain demand amid the war with its first export of the season being 18,000 metric tons of soybeans to Europe, and the port expects more of these exports to be made throughout the season.

“Given the consequences to global food supply amid the war in Ukraine, the rest of the world has had to step up to fill the void.” said William W. Scriber, director of the Port of Oswego. “Here in Oswego, we’re proud to be a major player in helping the world meet its demand for grains.”

The Port of Ogdensburg, also on Lake Ontario, also received a shipment of wind equipment from India, indicating the State of New York as a leading destination for renewable energy material imports.

On Lake Erie, the Port of Cleveland has proved to be a leading importer as seven “salties,” i.e. ocean-going ships that arrive the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway, have arrived carrying containerized goods, steel products, and general cargo including machinery.

“We’ve worked diligently to improve our operations and increase the capacity across our docks in recent years,” said William D. Friedman, president of the Port of Cleveland. “It’s no coincidence that we’ve positioned ourselves as an emerging port of call for containerized cargoes from across the globe.”

Additionally, the Port of Toledo has been off to a good start in 2022. Through April, 78 vessels have already called upon the Port of Toledo and its tonnage is up nearly 11% over the same period in 2021. Grain, salt, coal and liquid bulk are all outpacing 2021 totals.

“While it is early in the season, there are signs that 2022 will be successful,” said Joseph Cappel, VP of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “Grain and fertilizer are expected to be big movers in 2022 as trade patterns and pricing continue to fluctuate based on various global happenings. If our staple commodities like coal, iron ore and other dry bulk commodities remain consistent, we will have a strong year.”

The Port of Ashtabula, another Lake Erie port, has also been busy so far with inbound shipments of ilmenite sand from Senegal, ferrochrome from Finland, and two shipments of titanium slag from Canada and Norway, according to the GLSP.

Partnering with the craft brewer and food manufacturer Briess Malt, the Port of Manitowoc on Lake Michigan has utilized a new maritime supply chain route to import Danish Barley from Quebec. Previously, these shipments arrived from Thunder Bay but thanks to the new route, Manitowoc can receive barley from Quebec. This has enabled the Port of Manitowoc to increase its malt capacity and give Briess more options for importing the product, according to Paul Braun, the city planner for the City of Manitowoc.

Shipping on the Great Lakes kicked off March 22 with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Welland Canal, which connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, opened March 24, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Soo Locks in northern Michigan on March 25. The Soo Locks connect Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

In 2021, more than 28 million metric tons of cargo was shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway from the opening of the waterway on March 22, 2021 through its closing October 31, 2021, an increase of 1.92% compared to the 2020 season. Total transits increased 1.33% to 2,976 vessels through October.

Monthly Insights from the Helm

Dive into a sea of information with our meticulously curated weekly “Dispatch” email. It’s more than just a newsletter; it’s your personal maritime briefing.

Sign Up
Back to Main
polygon icon polygon icon

Why Join gCaptain Club?

Be Informed: Stay updated with the latest maritime news and trends.

Connect: Network with a community of maritime professionals and enthusiasts.

Gain Insights: Receive exclusive content and personal perspectives from our CEO.

Sign Up


Maritime and offshore news trusted by our 104,998 members delivered daily straight to your inbox.

gCaptain’s full coverage of the maritime shipping industry, including containerships, tankers, dry bulk, LNG, breakbulk and more.