Eyeballing both the Duluth-Superior port activity and online vessel tracking sites these days reveals a shipping trade swarming the Great Lakes.
"It's definitely busy out there," Jayson Hron of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority said.
Further testament to steady shipping traffic came Wednesday, when the Port of Duluth-Superior received its 17th Pacesetter Award - a salute to increased business in the port.
Established by the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation in 1992, the Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award recognizes a season-over-season increase in international tonnage shipped. Only Toledo, with 18, has more Pacesetters.
Duluth-Superior registered an 11.5 percent season-over-season gain in international tonnage shipped in 2018 - driven primarily by a 19 percent jump in grain tonnage.
"In terms of total tonnage, the 2018 season was Duluth-Superior's best since 2014, so it was a solid season overall," Port Authority Executive Director Deb DeLuca said in a news release. "International shipping, the Pacesetter Award criterion, certainly played a role in that 2018 success, with a slight uptick in the number of international vessels and a double-digit increase in the percentage of international tonnage shipped through the port."
Already this season, the local port is showing steady international traffic as wind turbine towers continue to stack up on Rice's Point at the Clure Public Marine Terminal Expansion.
Duluth-Superior is the beneficiary of federal wind energy tax credits as wind facilities commencing construction by Dec. 31 continue to qualify for an expiring credit, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Pacesetter Award was presented to the Port Authority at a Duluth-Superior Maritime Club luncheon on Wednesday in downtown Duluth.
Duluth-Superior was joined by seven other ports in receiving a 2018 Pacesetters, including Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, Port Milwaukee (Wisconsin), the Port of Monroe (Michigan), the Port of Muskegon (Michigan), the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority (New York), the Port of Oswego (New York), and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority (Ohio).
"The 2018 season saw the highest cargo tonnage on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System in more than a decade, with nearly 41 million tons of cargo shipped - a 7 percent increase over 2017," St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook said in a news release. "Our ports are making great contributions to the region, the nation and the world, and we're certainly pleased to recognize Duluth-Superior among the eight Pacesetter Award recipients."
According to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, approximately 900 vessels and 35 million short tons of cargo move through the local port each year, making it the Great Lakes' largest tonnage port and one of the nation's top 20.