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Construction Materials Anchoring St. Lawrence Seaway Shipments


The number of vessels currently in the Great Lakes-Seaway system has exceeded the five-year average as ships deliver much-needed supplies and make a final push to export grain before the St. Lawrence Seaway closes December 30, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

Year-to-date Seaway shipments of construction materials such as cement and stone were up 15 percent and 20 percent respectively.

“The 2015 shipping season has been a bellwether for North American economic trends,” said Stephen Brooks, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “Ships are delivering cement, stone, gypsum, aluminum and machinery to support an eight-year high in U.S. construction spending, along with growth in the automotive sector in Great Lakes states. But steep declines in global consumption and pricing have largely halted coal and iron ore exports via the waterway this season and that continues.”

New business has helped to offset shortfalls with figures from April 2 to November 30 showing that the St. Lawrence Seaway attracted 1.7 million metric tons of cargo either coming from new origins or heading to new destinations. This included salt imports from Morocco, Egypt and Venezuela to the ports of Toledo, Milwaukee and Monroe.

Domestic general cargo via the Seaway saw an increase of 27.7 percent this season, which is due mainly to increased shipments of aluminum ingots traveling from Sept-Iles, Quebec to ports in Oswego, N.Y., and Toledo, Ohio, for the automotive industry and other uses.

Movements of large-scale machinery and other project cargo like wind turbines nearly doubled this season, up 92 percent.

“The Port of Milwaukee has really proven its value to our regional manufacturers with an increase in large-scale movements of machinery for both export and import,” said Milwaukee’s Port Director Paul Vornholt. “Even within the past two weeks, the port handled a hammer press weighing nearly 100 tons that was delivered to a local company. We have had another strong year for steel moving through the port, which is used by local manufacturers. And a number of vessels arrived through the Seaway bringing in barley to support our city’s brewers. With a few weeks left of the Seaway season, we anticipate a strong finish for our overall cargo numbers as ships bring in more steel."

“So far this season, the Port of Green Bay has moved about 1.6 million metric tons of cargo, a little shy of our goal of 2 million. Recent imports have included cement, coal, limestone and salt. As for exports, petroleum products have seen an increase due to shortages being experienced on the east coast. With much of the region, including Wisconsin, experiencing moderate temperatures for this time of year, the port will most likely be able to move cargo through the end of December. This is good news for terminal operators looking to stock pile materials for the winter months and will aid the port in reaching our yearly tonnage goal,” Dean Haen, Director for the Brown County Port & Resource Recovery department.

Across the board, total year-to-date (April 2 through November 30) cargo on the Seaway was 31.5 million metric tons, down 10.4 per cent.