Cargo shipments of commodities through the St. Lawrence Seaway, such as iron ore, coal, aluminum and construction materials, totalled 4.5 million tonnes in May, an increase of 5 per cent over the same month last year.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) also reported that year-to-date shipments through the system from March 22 to May 31 totalled 8.9 million tonnes, up 3.7 per cent over the same period in 2011. All cargo categories experienced increased volumes, except grain and liquid bulk.

The growth continues to be driven by a healthy demand by U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and construction firms for raw materials, along with increased exports of iron ore and coal.  Shipments of aluminum ingots from Quebec to manufacturers in Ontario and the U.S. have also increased, while international vessels shipped in wind turbine components for projects in Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development for SLSMC, said: “It’s encouraging to see that manufacturers, construction and resource companies in the Great Lakes-Seaway region are continuing to find business opportunities both domestically and internationally despite continuing global economic uncertainty. The St. Lawrence Seaway remains the most efficient way for these companies to transport their goods.”

Coal shipments through the Seaway in May increased by 22 per cent to 528,000 tonnes compared to the same period last year due to export demand from power utilities in Europe.  Year-to-date figures for coal total 1.1 million tonnes, an overall improvement of 31 per cent over 2011.

Iron ore volumes were 1.3 million tonnes in May, up 40 per cent compared to the same month last year. Year-to-date figures for iron ore are up 23 per cent to 2.5 million tonnes. These included U.S. iron ore for international export, and inbound traffic from Labrador for steel manufacturing in Hamilton. Year-to-date cement exports from Ontario to the U.S. also increased 30 per cent to 393,000 tonnes.

Hamilton-based McKeil Marine Limited, which transports products such as aluminum ingots and project cargo through the Seaway on its articulated tug barges, said it was optimistic about the future prospects for shipping in the Great Lakes-Seaway region.

“We continue to be cautiously optimistic as tonnage increases in some market segments, however, there is little clarity on a long-term basis. The good news is that we are seeing increases month to month, which is encouraging and we continue to attract a number of project cargoes driven predominantly by the construction of the Vale Inco nickel processing plant in Long Harbour, Newfoundland”, says Steve Fletcher of McKeil Marine Limited.