Demand for raw materials from the U.S. manufacturing and construction sectors has kept St. Lawrence Seaway cargo shipments at a solid pace, despite tough economic conditions for some commodities.
“So far, we’re encouraged. Seaway shipping is holding its own considering global pricing on commodities such as iron ore. The Seaway benefits from the cross-border trade of raw materials like aluminum and cement which is feeding American automotive manufacturing and construction activity,” said Chamber of Marine Commerce President Stephen Brooks.
There were a number of positive cargo categories during March 21-May 31, compared to the same period in 2015.
Domestic general cargo shipments were up 64 percent, with aluminum ingots (for car and truck manufacturing) shipped by McKeil Marine from the Aluminerie Alouette plant in Sept-Iles, Quebec to Oswego, NY, Detroit, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.
Dry bulk cargo shipments totaled 1.9 million metric tons – up five percent – with strong performances from cement, road salt and gypsum. The Port of Green Bay, for example, saw a significant uptick of road salt imports from both U.S. and Canadian mines.
Dean Haen, director of the Port of Green Bay, said: “Year-to-date domestic salt shipments are up 135 percent and foreign salt is up 328 percent. While these rises are significant, that may be just a matter of timing."
St. Marys Cement, part of Votorantim Cimentos, transports cement and/or clinker from its Ontario plant to its facilities in Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit for residential and commercial construction projects.
Jim Reznik, director of logistics, North America for Votorantim Cimentos, said: “The milder winter has led to a quick jumpstart to the construction season. Last year, construction activity in the U.S. Great Lakes grew as the economy improved and, so far, we’re seeing that continue. With the Seaway opening earlier, we have been able to get extra vessel loads out to serve our customers.”
Shipments at the Port of Cleveland’s bulk terminals, including cement and iron ore, are up 15 percent this season compared to the same period last year. In May Siemens exported a gas turbine weighing close to 100,000 metric tons via the port to the country of Georgia. Specialty chemicals business Lubrizol Corp. of Wickliffe, Ohio, also announced it will ship containerized products from its plants in Avon Lake,Ohio, and Painesville, Ohio, through the port to Europe.
“The city has had a spate of new roadworks and other construction activity leading up to the U.S. republican convention this July, which has led to more demand for cement and construction materials,” said Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Port of Cleveland. “The Port also continues to be a gateway for manufacturing exports, with over-sized machinery and containers regularly leaving our terminals. Our Cleveland-Europe Express has been coming in every 10 days now to meet the demand and we are expecting a major uptick in international vessels in July and August.”
Across the board, total Seaway year-to-date shipments (March 21 to May 31) reached 6.5 million metric tons, down 4 percent (282,000 metric tons) compared to the same period last year. This decrease is largely due to tonnage decreases in iron ore and imported steel.