U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters carried 89.5 million tonnes of dry-bulk cargo in 2012, 4.6 per cent less than the previous year, but only 1.5 per cent below the five-year average of 90.8 million tonnes. It is worth noting that the five-year average continues to be depressed as a result of the serious recession that started in 2008, and which caused 2009 tonnages carried to drop by 35 per cent. Despite several years of recovery, overall tonnages still continue to lag pre-recession 2007 tonnage of 104 million tonnes.

While iron ore cargoes for the steel industry of 45.2 million tonnes exceeded the five-year average by 8.8 per cent, coal shipments of 17.6 million tonnes were down by 22 per cent, compared to the five-year average. Limestone, cement, salt, sand and grain tonnages in 2012 were equal to the five-year average.