Great Lakes shipping slumped in 2016

Jan 13, 2017

Most shipping on the Great Lakes comes to a close with the Soo Locks shutdown on Sunday.  It’s the end of a rough year for cargo companies.

According to the Lake Carriers Association, Great Lakes freighters transported over 83 million tons of cargo in 2016. That was a 4.5 percent decline compared to 2015.

The association’s Glen Nekvasil says shipments rose in only one category.  “Iron ore was the one cargo that increased. It was up about 8 percent, and our grain cargoes were down almost 30 percent.”

Shipments of coal, limestone, cement and salt were also down this year. 

Joe Starck of Great Lakes Towing says even though the Soo Locks are closing, some ships will continue to move through the winter.

“There are some ships that continue to operate all throughout the winter,” he said.  “Vessels carrying home heating oil, asphalt, or road salt, or coal - things that would be needed to keep power plants going.”

The 2017 shipping season will begin at the end of March. 

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Update 1/18 9:30am

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation has released end of year numbers for the 2016 navigation season.  The Seaway manages 13 Canadian and 2 U.S. locks along Lake Ontario and leading to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Seaway reports a decline in shipping from 2015 to 2016.  Grain increased by 3% and liquid bulk cargo rose more than 18%.  Shipments of iron ore, coal, and dry bulk fell.