of iron ore on the Great Lakes totaled 61.6 million tons in 2012, a
slight improvement over 2011.
The Lake Carriers' Association (LCA) said the increase, 245,000 tons, is equal to
about four cargos in a 1,000-foot-long vessel operating at current
drafts which are significantly reduced by the dredging crisis and
falling water levels. If a vessel that size was able to load to depths
available when the Lakes were at near record highs in 1997, it could
carry that much cargo in 3.4 trips.
from U.S. ports totaled 53.7 million tons, a decrease of 2.5 percent
compared to 2011. Included in that total were 3.7 million tons shipped to Québec City for transloading into oceangoing vessels.
Loadings at Canadian ports in the St. Lawrence Seaway totaled 7.9 million tons, an increase of 25.3 percent.
The Lake Carriers' Association said "the
first loads of 2013 make clear the dredging crisis and record low-water
levels will challenge the industry this year. The biggest cargoes were
just slightly over 60,000 tons. The record for the iron ore trade
through the Soo Locks is 72,300 tons, and that dates from 1997,
the last time water levels approached record highs."
Meanwhile, limestone shipments on the Great Lakes totaled 27.1 tons in 2012, a decrease of 3.6 percent compared to 2011. Limestone shipments from U.S. ports fell 2.4 percent when compared to 2011, while loadings at Canadian quarries decreased 9 percent compared to 2011.
LCA said by year’s end, a vessel in the limestone trade that has carried as much as 35,457 tons in a single trip averaged only 29,796 tons on the three stone loads it moved in December. Those cargoes were loaded at a quarry on Lake Huron and that body of water has fallen to a new record low.
The group said according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates, more than 17 million cubic yards of sediment must be removed from Great Lakes ports and waterways before vessels will be able to carry full loads.
Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes. - Chris Dupin