Great Lakes ships moving againGreat Lakes traffic is up dramatically this year.
By: Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Great Lakes traffic is up dramatically this year. U.S.-flagged lake carriers carried 50 percent more cargo in April than April of last year.
Duluth-Superior is hopping compared to last year at this time. Seaway Port Authority of Duluth Trade Developer Ron Johnson says most commodities are up this year.
“Especially with the iron ore pellets – with the steel industry ramping up, it’s really good to see a lot more ships came out early this year so the iron ore pellets are the rising star,” he said.
Vessel agent David Sauer of S.A. McLennan Agency says as the economy goes, so does the shipping industry. It’s all about responding to demand.
“When the steel mills start operating, they need iron ore so they need to get it down somehow so the shipping has to pick up, which means the shipping needs the product, which means the iron mines start producing mine pellets to feed the furnaces,” Sauer said.
The Lake Carriers Association says iron ore cargo has more than doubled so far this year. Limestone, an indication construction is busier, is up 47 percent. Lake Carriers’ Glen Nekvasil says all of this has to be taken with a grain of salt. Last year was the worst shipping season since the Great Depression year of 1938.
“We’re about 15 percent below the five year average,” Nekvasil said. “It’s important to point that out. As everybody is happy to see, we’re moving in the right direction again. Our economy has a ways to go before it’s going to be termed robust again. So it’s not quite time to be singing ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’”
Coal cargo got a slow start, down 15 percent in April. Nekvasil blames, in part, later sailing dates for some coal-carrying ships.
More Great Lakes sailors are working this year too. Forty-two of the 55 U.S.-flagged vessels are operating. That’s seven more than a year ago.