Judging by data for the month of September, the economic recovery that has been underway in the U.S. continues to be fragile. Lake Carriers’ Association reported a drop in September tonnages of almost 8.5 per cent, from 13.3 million tonnes carried in September of 2011 to 12.2 million tonnes carried in September of 2012. Of all the categories reported (iron ore, coal, limestone, cement, salt, sand and grain), only cement showed strength. Comparing year-to-date numbers, both cement and grains showed positive growth, while other commodities showed declines. Interestingly, shipments of iron ore from Sept-Îles for Great Lakes destinations increased from 889,000 tonnes on a year-to date basis in 2011 to 1.8 million tonnes in 2012. For 2012 to date, overall Lake tonnages were up by 1.0 per cent. Compared to pre-recession 2008, overall Lake tonnages were down by 20.4 per cent in 2012 on a year-to-date basis.
Seaway traffic on a year-to-date basis is virtually unchanged from tonnages seen in 2011, with 2012 cargo representing 25.1 million tonnes. Grain cargos were down significantly (15.6 per cent to 4.3 million tonnes), as were dry bulk (down 13.3 per cent to 6.2 million tonnes) and liquid bulk (down 13.5 per cent to 2.3 million tonnes. On the other hand, shipments of iron ore were up significantly (up 21.6 per cent to 7.7 million tonnes), as were coal shipments (up 31.2 per cent to 3.3 million tonnes). General cargo was up 6.1 per cent to 1.4 million tonnes.