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U.S. Great Lakes Ports Reflect on November Tonnage, 2019 Goals

As the 2019 shipping season heads into the final weeks, U.S. Great Lakes ports report increases in road salt shipments, petroleum products and general cargo such as limestone in November.

Despite these areas of strength, overall 2019 St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes are down 6% (for the period of March 22 to November 30) compared to 2018. Weaker overall U.S. grain exports, declines in steel imports due to U.S. tariffs and difficult navigational conditions due to very high water flows within the St. Lawrence River have restrained cargo volumes.

Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said: “Despite the overall Seaway decrease, it’s great to see so many U.S. ports reaching their yearly goals with a few weeks remaining in the shipping season and exceeding their 2018 cargo totals. We’re optimistic this momentum will continue. Cities and manufacturing companies rely on this important Great Lakes-Seaway trade corridor to stockpile road salt for deicing roads, deliver crucial raw materials for plant production, and export grain and other products right up to the end of December.”

The Port of Green Bay reached its 2019 goal of 2 million tons in November thanks to nearly 207,000 tons of cargo moved into and out of the port. At 2,081,962 tons through November, year-to-date tonnage is running 9% ahead of the total from last year.

“Two million tons is the benchmark for a successful shipping season for the Port of Green Bay,” said Dean Haen, Port of Green Bay director. “Hitting that mark at the end of November is great news with several weeks of shipping remaining before the season closes. We’re optimistic we will reach 2.3 million tons for this season.”

More than 680,000 tons of limestone has been imported in Green Bay so far this season, with domestic imports of limestone outpacing 2018 by 23%. Foreign salt imports from Egypt and Canada have also been strong at 290,000 tons; 60% higher than 2018 salt imports. Exports of petroleum products to Montreal and Quebec were up 125% from the same time period in 2018.

Port Milwaukee also surpassed the 2 million tons benchmark in November; nearing its best cargo volumes in recent years.

“Overall tonnage through Milwaukee remains up more than 20% when compared to 2018, and shipping has remained high across multiple commodity categories,” Director Adam Schlicht said. “The port’s winter shipping service in early 2020 will likely be busy, as southeastern Wisconsin has already experienced earlier-than-normal snow activity. Port Milwaukee’s ability to offer road and specialty salts throughout the region will be fully utilized.”

Schlicht added, “Port Milwaukee has positioned itself as a premiere turnaround cruise facility on the Great Lakes. With Milwaukee as the host city of the 2020 Democratic National Convention and cruise-related tourism growing, Milwaukee and its port are increasingly being seen as a world-class transportation hub and international tourism destination of choice.”

The Port of Cleveland is also experiencing a strong finish to the 2019 shipping season, as general cargo is up approximately 5% through November.

“Through November, general cargo is up approximately 5% compared to 2018 numbers due to the efforts of the port and Logistec, our terminal operator, which secured new cargoes that have added to our existing portfolio,” said Dave Gutheil, chief commercial officer, Port of Cleveland. “The port also recently completed a significant infrastructure improvement at our bulk terminal, that rehabilitated the entire length of our 1,800-ft. bulkhead, which will enable more efficient handling of cargoes at that facility. In addition, our cruise vessel calls increased by 25% during the 2019 season, and we expect that growth to continue into the 2020 season.”