The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) announced that total tonnage increased by 1.4 million tonnes, or 4 per cent, to 38.9 million tonnes during the 2012 navigation season, exceeding its original forecast by 300,000 tonnes thanks in part to a late season surge in grain movements.

Demand for low sulphur coal in Europe led to a substantial increase in coal volumes, while Chinese steel mills triggered an upsurge in the demand for iron ore. Coal shipments were up by 23.7 per cent in 2012, while shipments of iron ore were up by 14.6 per cent. The shipments of coal and iron ore were brought to the Great Lakes and loaded on domestic Laker vessels, which then proceeded to the lower St. Lawrence River, where the commodities were transshipped to larger ocean vessels, for export to overseas destinations.

On the grain front, 2012 was a story of contrasts as strong Canadian grain movements offset a sharp drop in U.S. grain movements, due to the drought which impacted the majority of the U.S. grain belt. Terence Bowles, President and CEO of SLSMC, emphasized the essential role that the Seaway plays within the North American transportation network. “The Seaway was instrumental in providing grain shippers with the means to rapidly respond and capitalize on market opportunities late in the season,” said Bowles. Despite the late surge, overall grain shipments were down 0.5 per cent from 2011 levels.

The 2012 season also witnessed an important advance in navigational technology. “The commissioning of the Draft Information System (DIS) further enhances vessel safety and efficiency,” said Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “A vessel equipped with DIS can now precisely gauge the amount of water under the ship’s keel, given satellite guided navigation combined with highly precise models of the channel floor.”

The Seaway season closed on December 29th, 2012.