Shipping

The Great Lakes are often referred to as the "fourth seacoast."  U.S. and Canadian lake fleets annually haul upwards of 125 million tons of cargo, including iron ore, limestone and coal.

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Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

On WCPN's public affairs program The Sound of Ideas last week, panelists from the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes, the Cleveland Metroparks, and the University of Minnesota Duluth's Large Lakes Observatory discussed this year's low ice cover on the Great Lakes. 

Listen to the segment here.

Zebra Mussels,
US Department of Agriculture

Every year, hundreds of commercial ships make their way through the St. Lawrence seaway, taking on and letting out water to maintain stability as they load and unload cargo. This ballast water is regulated to prevent the spread of invasive species, but there is some disagreement about who should be in charge of those regulations.

Dave Rosenthal

Areas along the Great Lakes are bracing for big lake effect snows this weekend -- and there probably will be more this winter.

The reason: Water temperatures on all five lakes are higher than normal, so little ice has formed.

Elizabeth Miller

This week marks the start of a break in the Great Lakes shipping season.  A time when lakes freeze over, the locks at Sault St. Marie shut down, and crews on big freighters go home to their families.  

But not everyone stops working.

 

Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

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.”

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