Great Lakes traffic sees sharp drop
U.S.-flag cargo movement on the Great Lakes amounted to 918,981 tons in January compared to 3.8 million in January 2007, according to the Lake Carriers Association.
The group said cargo volumes fell below 1 million net tons in January for likely the first time since the recession of the mid-1980s. It noted that for the first time in several years, no iron ore will move in February. In recent years, the port of Escanaba, Mich., which is located below the Soo Locks, has shipped some cargo in February.
The group said a 40-percent drop in cargo movement in December wiped out earlier gains and produced a 3-percent decrease in U.S.-flag shipping on the Great Lakes in 2008. The 101 million net tons of dry-bulk cargo transported by U.S.-flag lakers in 2008 also represented a 4.5 percent decrease from the trade’s five-year average.
The group, which represents 16 carriers operating 63 vessels on the Great Lakes, said that in 2008:
' Iron ore trade finished in a virtual tie with a year ago — 47.2 million net tons. Yet as late as November, shipments of iron ore in U.S. hulls were up by 2.2 million net tons. The iron ore trade crumbled in December.
' At 25 million net tons, coal shipments represent a small decrease from 2007. However, the 18 million net tons of low sulfur coal loaded at Superior Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior, Wis., set a new benchmark for the U.S.-flag lakes fleet.
' Limestone loadings finished the year at 23.6 million net tons, down 9 percent compared to 2007. However, compared to the fleet’s five-year average for stone, cargos were off more than 14 percent. It said the trade was sluggish all year, primarily because of the decline in heavy construction and the housing market.
' Of other dry bulk commodities carried by the fleet, only salt held even with 2007. Cement, sand and grain were all down compared to 2007.