If cargo shipments on the St. Lawrence Seaway are any indication, trade from Great Lakes states including Michigan has increased this year.
Total cargo shipments between March 25 and Nov. 30 reached 34.6 million metric tons, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway. That’s up 5 percent over the same period in 2013, and the seaway expects the season to close ahead of last year’s numbers by a similar margin.
So what’s driving the traffic on the system of locks and channels connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean? Increased shipments of grains and steel.
Grain shipments are up 44 percent over 2013, and steel shipments are up 80 percent. Steel is used in construction projects and by the automotive industry.
“Shipments of steel coils, wire and beams to Detroit have been up by about 10 percent this season. Six ships brought in over 34,000 net tons in November alone, much of which will be used in regional manufacturing of parts for the automobile industry,” said Pat Sutka, treasurer of Nicholson Terminal & Dock at the Port of Detroit.
One other increase has come from salt shipments, which are going to cities like Detroit, Toledo and Milwaukee to meet a demand for road salt.
Products that are being shipped less frequently include coal and iron ore.
Stephen Brooks is president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. He said because of the harsh winter, the seaway got a slow start.
“After a year of big harvests and an uptick in North American economic activity, it is expected that total tonnage through the Seaway will be ahead of 2013 when the season closes at the end of December. Ship operators, ports and the Seaway have worked flat out to make this season a success after a delayed start due to weather and ice conditions,” Brooks said.