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October 20, 2010

Grain exports boost Seaway traffic

Cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway continue to rebound on the back of strong American grain exports and iron ore and steel activity, along with an uptick of new business and trade routes.

The St. Lawrence Seaway reports that total year-to-date shipments reached 22.9 million metric tons from March 25 to September 30, an increase of 18 percent over the same period in 2009. Year-to-date shipments of iron ore for 2010 are up 62 percent to 7.2 million metric tons compared to last year.

American grain shipments have increased by 36 percent to 1.3 million metric tons. September, these numbers were boosted by saw American grain shipments reach 604,000 metric tons a 68 percent surge compared to the same month in 2009.

Iron ore increased in September by 5.7 percent and general cargo (which is comprised of steel slabs, coils and project cargo like wind power components) rose by 17 percent compared to the same month in 2009.

Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority noted that the Port of Duluth-Superior continued to enjoy robust grain shipments. "The story at the Port remains the movement of grain. Grain year-to-date is up 15 percent over our five year average, while grain year-to-date is up 89 percent over the same period in 2009. In September alone, we experienced a 123 percent increase in outbound grain shipments."

This season, the Seaway saw steel imports from Romania and South America arrive at new markets in the Great Lakes; quartz stone shipments from Canada's Maritime Provinces to Hamilton; and bulk material from Japan to the Great Lakes to be used in construction projects.

Canada Steamship Lines also recently signed a new four-month deal to ship wind turbine components from the Port of Gros-Cacouna on Quebec's South Shore to Burns Harbor, Indiana. The five loads, which will be completed in October, are bound for a wind farm in Bloomington, Illinois. The shipment removes 400 trucks from the highways between Cacouna and Chicago, the equivalent of 700,000 truck-kilometers or 17 times the distance around the Earth.

"This is the first time we transported wind turbine components on deck as well as in the cargo holds. We used every available space in the ship. This new business, which benefitted from the Seaway's tolls incentives program, was not only a win for CSL but also for the Seaway and adjoining communities. There are clear environmental benefits of taking trucks off the road and using marine transportation, which has a much smaller carbon footprint," said Tom Brodeur, vice-president of marketing for Montreal-based Canada Steamship Lines, a division of The CSL Group.

"This year, the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor received the largest project cargo shipment in our port's 40-year history," said Port Director Peter Laman. "The shipment included more than 130 wind turbines carried on 11 ships for a project in Illinois. We've devoted about 20 acres of our outdoor storage area to wind equipment and we also just handled our first export shipment of wind turbines that are being transported from Iowa to Nova Scotia."

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway waterway is responsible for approximately 75,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada and 150,000 in the U.S. and annually generates more than $4.3 billion in personal income, $3.4 billion in transportation-related business revenue, and $1.3 billion in federal, state and local taxes. The vital trade corridor delivers approximately $3.6 billion in annual cost savings compared to the next least expensive mode of commercial transportation. This provides a competitive advantage for the North American manufacturing, construction, energy and agri-food sectors.

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