Iron Ore Cargo Numbers Take a Hit


Newly released cargo tonnage reports are mixed for August, with Great Lakes cargo down but St. Lawrence Seaway numbers up from a year ago.

Cargo is off almost 9 percent from a year ago on the Great Lakes. Grain has been down this entire shipping season because of drought and other conditions. The surprise in August is that iron ore is off 5 percent after gains every month from a year ago.

Lake Carriers Association Vice-President Glen Neckvasil says August is a bump in the road for the 57 U.S. flagged Great Lakes vessels. “We have several boats that did not sail yet this year. So, at no point have we been hitting on all cylinders, but cargoes have been rebounding since that terrible 2009. That year the iron ore trade was at its lowest level since 1938, the Great Depression, so we have been fighting back.”

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Aggregate and flux stone used for construction and steel making is also down 6 percent while coal is off 20 percent from a year ago. Overall cargo is up 5 percent this year in the Port of Duluth-Superior.

Port Director Adolph Ojard says iron ore shipments were down slightly in August but up 20 percent for the season. “It’s certainly welcomed. There’s a lot of jobs supported by iron ore moving through this harbor. So, we’ve been strong this year. I would hope with some of these announcements that are out there, we’ll trend stronger into the next year that things will continue on.”

Ojard says so-called “super-cargoes,” large pieces of equipment for wind, steam and oil production are also helping. Meanwhile, foreign cargo moving through the St. Lawrence Seaway is up nearly 7 percent this year.