Great Lakes iron ore volumes down nearly 7%
Shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system fell 6.7 percent to 6.4 million net tons in July, according to the Cleveland-based Lake Carriers' Association. Loadings trailed their five-year average for July by 115,000 tons.
According to the group, anecdotal evidence shows that vessel capacity utilization rates fell even more than shipments in July. A 1,000-foot-long U.S.-flag iron ore vessel operating on the Great Lakes lost from 9.5 percent to 11.6 percent of its per-trip carrying capacity in July because of inadequate dredging of ports and waterways. A 700-foot-long U.S.-flag Laker delivering iron ore to a riverfront steel mill in Ohio fared even worse, using only 83.6 percent of its capacity. Dredging issues limited another U.S.-flag Laker that was extensively modernized in 2006 to 87.7 percent of its capacity in August.
For the year, the Great Lakes-Seaway iron ore trade has declined 4.3 percent over the first six months of 2006. Totals for 2007 now stand at 29.3 million tons through the end of July, still slightly ahead of the five-year average for the mid-year timeframe.
The Lake Carriers' Association represents 18 American corporations that operate 63 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes. These vessels carry raw materials such as iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, limestone and cement for the construction industry, and coal for power generation.
Collectively, these vessels can transport as much as 125 million tons of cargo a year when high water levels offset what the association describes as the lack of adequate dredging of Great Lakes ports and waterways.