Total year-to-date traffic through the St. Lawrence Seaway amounted to 13.2 million tonnes, compared to 13.0 million tonnes on a year-to-date basis in 2011. Grain tonnages declined steeply from 2.7 to 2.3 million tonnes, while iron ore shipments were up substantially, from 3.0 to 3.8 million tonnes.
Canadian grain shipments were just about unchanged from year-ago levels. However, U.S. grain shipments were substantially below year-ago levels as a result of lower supplies (2011 floodings, 2012 drought) and more export shipments being barged down the Mississippi river.
Iron ore shipments rose because of rising demand for steel as a result of rising demand for North American produced automobiles, and because of strong demand for steel pipe to support drilling for liquids-rich shale gas and shale oil.
While the loss of momentum on the Great Lakes and the Seaway is somewhat discouraging, the consensus among economists is that while the U.S. recovery is experiencing a slowdown, it remains intact. While the recovery is weak, a foundation for stronger growth is being built through the shedding of household debt (reduced from 133 per cent of disposable income in 2007 to 114 per cent today), and a greater contribution to GDP from exports. Shale oil production is helping to reduce the trade deficit. Abundant shale gas supplies are encouraging large industrial users accustomed to sourcing feedstocks from Middle Eastern countries to expand production capacity in the U.S.