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Big year for port of Hamilton as December rush buoys Great Lakes-Seaway shipping season

Big year for port of Hamilton as December rush buoys Great Lakes-Seaway shipping season

With just two weeks left of the season, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Canadian ports are reporting a rush of activity as manufacturers stockpile raw materials and businesses take advantage of the congestion-free waterway to export overseas.

According to the latest figures from the St. Lawrence Seaway, general cargo shipments, including steel, aluminum, and oversized machinery, from March 22 to November 30, are up 71%.  Iron ore shipments are up 17%, while dry bulk shipments including construction materials like stone, cement and gypsum, have increased by 6%, compared to the same period last year.

Overall, cargo shipments via the Seaway between March 22 and November 30 totaled 33.3 million metric tons, a rise of 1.7% from 2020. Slower grain exports due to smaller harvests compared to 2020 continue to offset the growth in other cargo sectors.  Without grain factored in, overall tonnage numbers would be up 13%.

Both iron ore and steel shipments – supporting domestic consumer product manufacturing and construction — have even surpassed 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

“December, as always, is a critical month for our waterway as manufacturers stockpile raw materials and grain/potash exporters get their final products to market before the Seaway closes for winter,” says Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

The Montreal-Lake Ontario section of the Seaway will close to ship traffic December 31, while the Welland Canal will remain open until January 7 to facilitate domestic shipping between Lake Ontario and the Upper Lakes.

Hamilton Port’s year-to-date total of 9.5 million metric tons is 16% higher than the same period in 2020. Its year-to-date total has now exceeded pre-pandemic totals (in 2019) by this point in the season. Grain, sugar, fertilizer and construction materials – everything from sand and slag to finished steel – have all been highlights so far in Hamilton.

The Port of Oshawa has also seen a significant increase in finished steel, and is expecting some unique cargo in the coming days. A 2,000-ton tunnel boring machine (TBM) bound for Metrolinx’s Scarborough Subway Extension is currently on route to the Port of Oshawa from Europe, where it will be transloaded onto truck and delivered up to the project site.

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