October shipments by U.S.-flagged freighters on the Great Lakes were up more than 14 percent over the same month last year. While those numbers are welcome, the improvement is largely artificial, after a major reduction in shipping last year due to Hurricane Sandy.
Great Lakes freighters carried 9.8 million tons of dry, bulk cargo in October. That's 14.4 percent more than the same period last year. Iron ore shipments were up nearly 16 percent and limestone shipments jumped by 20 percent.
Vice president of the Lake Carriers' Association Glen Nekvasil says those numbers are welcome but they have to be kept in context. “We do have to be honest about this. A year ago, the fleet went to anchor for almost 2,000 hours because of the storms after Hurricane Sandy. So, it's a bit of an invalid comparison. We lost an awful lot of time a year ago, compared to this year.”
Nekvasil says, all things considered, it looks like this shipping season will be on par with the last for U.S. lake freighters, but they're still feeling the recession of 2008. "So, we have six vessels that have not operated this year," Nekvasil said. "That tells you that we have not fully recovered from the recession."
For individual ports, it is much the same story. Adele Yordi is the communications director for the Duluth/Superior Port Authority. She says shipments through the port are a little behind last year but the race is on to get final shipments out before the season ends. “We're on par for a strong, steady finish to this shipping season. We should end up just about where we were last season, maybe a little bit higher.”
Overall, international shipments on the Great Lakes for the season are down 7 percent compared to 2012.