U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters (lakers) moved 11,365,550 tonnes of cargo in July, their highest monthly total in two years. The industry’s July total also represented increases of 8.6 per cent compared to June and 10.2 per cent compared to a year ago.

Iron ore for steel production totaled 5.3 million tonnes, an increase of nearly 15 per cent compared to a year ago. Higher water levels did allow for some cargoes to approach 70,000 tonnes, but even so, the vessels were still less than full. With 18 million cubic yards of sediment clogging ports and waterways, only dredging will fully restore the Great Lakes Navigation System.

Coal cargoes totalled 2.1 million tonnes, a slight increase compared to a year ago. Loadings on Lake Superior were virtually unchanged from a year ago. Shipments from Lake Erie ports soared 65 per cent, but loadings on Lake Michigan fell 50 per cent.

Shipments of limestone reached their highest level in two years, 3.4 million tonnes, an increase of more than 10 per cent compared to a year ago.

On a year-to-date basis, U.S.-flag cargo movement stands at 38.4 million tonnes, a decrease of 10.8 per cent compared to a year ago. Even though 55 U.S.-flag lakers were in service in July, an increase of five hulls compared to a year ago, the fleet has yet to overcome the thousands of hours lost to heavy ice formations in March and April. Iron ore cargoes are down by 14 per cent. Coal trails last year by 5.8 per cent. Loadings of limestone are 8.7 per cent off last year’s pace. Decreases in cargo totals are not the only impact of the brutal winter. Repairing the damage that ice did to U.S.-flag lakers has cost Lake Carriers Association members more than $5.7 million.

Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes that carry iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain.  Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tonnes of cargo per year.