U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes were bogged down by ice formations in March, “the likes of which have not been seen in decades,” according to the Lake Carriers’ Association.
The association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes.
Shipments of iron ore, coal and cement on these vessels totaled 980,000 tons, a decrease of 55 percent compared to a year ago. Some of the cargo that was loaded in March could not be delivered until April 7 or later, the association said.
Iron ore cargoes totaled 827,000 tons, a decrease of 47 percent compared to a year ago. Most of the ore was loaded at Escanaba, Mich., or shuttled within Cleveland Harbor.
“Only 67,000 tons were loaded at a Lake Superior port, and the ice formations on Lake Superior and the St. Marys River were so thick that that those cargoes were not delivered until April 7 or later. Under normal circumstances, those cargoes should have been delivered in late March or early April,” LCA said.
Resumption of the coal trade was similarly slowed by the icy lakes. These shipments totaled 103,000 tons, a decrease of 44.5 percent compared to a year ago. Cement shipments fell to 52,000 tons, a decrease of 67 percent compared to a year ago.
Through March 31, U.S.-flag cargoes on the Great Lakes totaled 3.2 million tons, a decrease of nearly 39 percent compared to the same time in 2013.
“As of April 1, only 23 U.S.-flag lakers were in service. A year earlier, 38 vessels were in operation. Forty U.S.-flag lakers were moving on April 1, 2012,” the association said.