Cargo shipments on the St. Lawrence Seaway increased by 7 per cent in August compared to the same month last year as buoyant export trade of North American iron ore and coal to Europe and China continues.

The August traffic helped lift total year-to-date shipments from March 22 to August 31 to 21.4 million tonnes, up 1.5 per cent from the same period last year.

Iron ore shipments through the Seaway were 1.4 million tonnes in August, up 43 per cent; while coal shipments were up 45 per cent to 523,000 tonnes. Year-to-date totals for iron ore and coal are 6.6 million tonnes, and 2.7 million tonnes respectively. These commodities, including iron ore from Quebec, continue to be used for steel production in Canada. But much of the growth comes from U.S. exports travelling through the Seaway destined for overseas markets.

Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development for The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, said: “The export of coal and iron ore through the Seaway to overseas destinations such as Europe and China has been a real success story throughout this entire shipping season. It is also a great example of how the Canadian and American economies are interconnected by the Great Lakes-Seaway system. Iron ore and coal from the U.S. is being carried by Canadian shipowners to ports in Quebec City and Sept-Îles for further transshipment overseas. These exports are producing economic benefits for both countries.”

Year-to-date American grain shipments totalled 410,000 tonnes, down 54 per cent, while Canadian grain shipments totalled 3 million tonnes, down 13 per cent from the same period last year.  Seaway ­officials expect that Canadian grain shipments will pick up in September and October once shipping of the spring crops begins.

Shipments of general cargo, including wind turbines, aluminum ingots, steel and other heavy machinery, increased by 79 per cent in August compared to the same month last year.  Port of Thunder Bay had the opportunity to test out its $3-million new mobile harbour crane, when it transported three turbine tower segments from the Netherlands-flagged MV Vikingbank off the ship and onto waiting transports that will deliver the highly specialized parts to their Montana destination. The mobile crane is expected to attract more over-sized cargo to the port in the coming years, with inquiries already coming in from oil-related companies such as Suncor and Husky.

Port of Windsor also had a busy August with overall cargo shipments totalling 553,463 tonnes, up 48 per cent from the same month last year, with increases in steel for piping in construction and dry-bulk like sugar and grain. The largest source of growth was attributed to an influx of stone from Ohio to be used for road construction, including the new Windsor-Essex Parkway.

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System continues to be a viable option for shippers in the event of a work stoppage on the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast. Hamilton Port Authority expects no impact from the labour action on the U.S. East Coast. “Hamilton’s stable, reliable workforce is one of its great strengths,” said Ian Hamilton, Vice-President, Business Development & Real Estate, Hamilton Port Authority. “An eight-year agreement has helped to ensure we are able to provide efficient and consistent service. In fact, we have not seen a work stoppage as result of ILA action for two decades”.