port of deluth

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

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Sees Uptick in Wind Cargoes

Mike Schuler
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August 18, 2021

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway has seen a rise in ship transits this year thanks in part to an increase in wind energy cargoes, boding well for American and Canadian ports and economies in the region.

Great Lakes Seaway Partnership on Wednesday reported navigation statistics since the opening of the shipping season on March 22 through July. In the first 4 months, the critical seaway connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes region saw 1,733 total transits and 16.7 million tons, up 6.2% and 4.6%, respectively, compared to 2020.

Commodities seeing an increase included iron ore, containers, steel, and wind energy cargo. The ports of Erie, Burns Harbor, and Duluth received wind energy cargoes on eight ships.

“July was a good month for project cargo moving through the Seaway System, with a notable resurgence in shipments of windmill components,” said Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “The wind energy supply chain continues to be strong, with vessels bringing these cargoes from five different countries last month. Exports of iron ore remain strong due to sustained worldwide demand, and steel tonnage continues to be robust, driven by activity in the manufacturing and construction sectors.”

The increase in wind energy cargoes through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway was also apparent during the 2020 navigation season. The Port of Duluth-Superior, for example, saw an increase of 219,000 freight tons in wind cargo compared to 2019, making it a top hub wind cargo. Indiana’s Port of Burns Harbor saw a total of 45 shipments wind cargoes.

Last month, the Port of Duluth-Superior had its largest July “float” since 2015, increasing to 4.2 million short tons of maritime cargo and pushing the port’s season-to-date tonnage total over 15.2 million through July 31. This marked 6% above the five-season average and 40.5% ahead of last season’s pace. Through July, vessel arrivals in the Port of Duluth-Superior totaled 334, outpacing 2020’s count by 28.5%.

“It’s been a good first half of the shipping season so far and a vigorous rebound from the COVID challenges of 2020,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It’s been especially good to see iron ore tonnage jumping back above the five-season average, because it’s a bellwether of positivity for our port and our region as a whole.

“Each ore ship carries between $7 million and $8 million in ore value, so while they’re moving a key raw material of everyday life, they’re also moving a sizable amount of commerce for our communities and the North American economy,” added DeLuca.

Ryan McCoy, Ports of Indian-Burns Harbor port director, said his port had a “fantastic” July.

“International vessel tonnage increased 228 percent compared to last July 2020. Year-to-date, Burns Harbor is up more than 115 percent in our seaway/maritime business. Overall, all Burns Harbor tonnage is up 24 percent. With this influx, our customers are taking advantage of the versatility of our Port and properties. We are able to offer unique storage options within close proximity to their processing facilities that they couldn’t find outside of our port setting. All indications point to a robust end of the year and strong 2022 shipping season, as well.”

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway ended its 2020 season on December 31, 2020.

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