AUGUST 13, 2014 — After a brutal winter that has depressed industry year to date tonnage totals, U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters moved 11,365,550 tons of cargo in July, their highest monthly total in two years. The industry’s July total also represented increases of 8.6 percent compared to June and 10.2 percent compared to a year ago, reports the Lake Carriers Association, which represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes .
Iron ore for steel production totaled 5.3 million tons, an increase of nearly 15 percent compared to a year ago. Higher water levels did allow for some cargos to approach 70,000 tons, but even so, the vessels were still less than full. With 18 million cubic yards of sediment clogging ports and waterways, only dredging will fully restore the Great Lakes Navigation System.
Coal cargos totaled 2.1 million tons, a slight increase compared to a year ago. Loadings on Lake Superior were virtually unchanged from a year ago. Shipments from Lake Erie ports soared 65 percent, but loadings on Lake Michigan fell 50 percent.
Shipments of limestone reached their highest level in two years, 3.4 million tons, an increase of more than 10 percent compared to a year ago.
Year-to-date, U.S.-flag cargo movement stands at 38.4 million tons, a decrease of 10.8 percent compared to a year ago. Even though 55 U.S.-flag lakers were in service in July, an increase of five hulls compared to a year ago, the fleet has yet to overcome the thousands of hours lost to heavy ice formations in March and April. Iron ore cargos are down by 14 percent. Coal trails last year by 5.8 percent. Loadings of limestone are 8.7 percent off last year’s pace.
Decreases in cargo totals are not the only impact of the brutal winter. Repairing the damage that ice did to U.S.-flag lakers has cost LCA’s members more than $5.7 million.
Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes that carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain. Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo per year.