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Great Lakes shipping has avoided the North American supply chain crunch

Great Lakes shipping has avoided the North American supply chain crunch

Cargo volumes through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Canadian Great Lakes ports remained robust in September as ships delivered critical commodities and products without the delays or supply chain disruption seen in other trade gateways, according to the latest results.

From March 22 to September 30, overall cargo volumes via the Seaway totaled 24.1 million metric tonnes, up 2.6% from the same time period in 2020.

Year-to-date iron ore shipments, up 26%, showed no sign of slowing down as demand from Canadian and overseas steel producers continued.

General cargo shipments, including iron, steel and aluminum, are also up 59% compared to this time last year. Ship operator McKeil Marine delivered over 41,600 metric tonnes of Canadian aluminum in September; up from 16,200 metric tonnes in September 2020. The majority of these volumes are being shipped to Toledo, Ohio. The improvement comes after U.S. steel tariffs were lifted in 2019/2020, although volumes have not yet completely returned to normal levels. McKeil’s aluminum shipping utilization is currently at 85-90%. 

Following 2020’s blockbuster performance, Canadian grain shipments via the Seaway are down 17%; however, despite the drop, grain shipments are still in line with the five-year average. Poor weather conditions have led to lower crop yields in the Canadian Prairies. On the other hand, Ontario corn and soybean harvests have begun and are in good condition.

Said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “While global supply chain routes have become disrupted and backlogged due to the pandemic, Canada’s Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping routes remain reliable, safe and congestion free.”

Bowles’ remarks on resiliency in the region are echoed by the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority’s President & CEO, Ian Hamilton, “What we’re seeing in cargo at our ports makes us optimistic for the path the regional economy is on.”

Hamilton added, “In particular we’re pleased to see strong manufacturing-related indicators like steel-making commodities and finished steel. Compared to this time last year, HOPA Ports has received 25% more iron ore (two million tonnes) and more than a million tonnes of steel has moved through the ports so far this season. This is an encouraging sign of demand in the manufacturing and construction sectors.”

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