Skip to Main Content

NA grain shipments flowing as Seaway shipping hits final stretch


The St. Lawrence Seaway is expecting a strong finish to the shipping season as freighters deliver critical raw materials and exports for North America’s industrial and agricultural sectors before the waterway closes December 31.

 “The St. Lawrence Seaway has been a significant export gateway for American grain and iron ore pellets this season and that’s expected to continue in these final weeks of December,” said Bruce R. Burrows, the new president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “High-value project cargo such as wind turbines and machinery have also been a star cargo category this season with shipments up 42 percent. Manufacturers increasingly recognize that the Great Lakes-Seaway system is a safe, cost-effective way to ship these very large components directly into the heart of North America.“

According to the latest figures from the St. Lawrence Seaway, total year-to-date cargo shipments for this year (March 21 through November 30) have reached 30.3 million metric tons.

U.S. grain shipments reached nearly 2.3 million metric tons through November, about 7.7 percent above last year’s strong performance.. Iron ore shipments, albeit down 10 percent over 2015 volumes, have improved in recent months due to the resurgence of iron ore pellet exports via the Seaway to Japan and China following improved global pricing.

The Port of Duluth-Superior is among those reporting a recent uptick in shipping. “We have seen a 15 percent increase in vessel visits by Canadian lakers through November of this year, reflective of increased shipments of iron ore and grain through the Seaway,” said Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “We all know economic recovery in Minnesota’s mining industry still has a way to go, but seeing pellets pick up the pace is encouraging. And the stream of grain shipments is still running nearly 25 percent above the Port’s 5-year average.”

November 2016 shipments through the Port of Toledo outpaced last November and brought total tonnage increasingly closer to 2015 totals.  Despite a slow start and much lower iron ore throughput, grain, coal, petroleum products, and general cargo shipments are outpacing last year and the Port is finishing the season strong.  “We have now surpassed the 7 million ton mark and all the terminals have been very busy over the last several weeks firing on all cylinders,” said Joe Cappel, VP of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.  “We are having a record year for aluminum shipments and the fall grain harvest was also very good.  This is a great way to end the season and we hope to continue the momentum into next year.”

For the Port of Green Bay, petroleum products lead the way following the shutdown of the main pipeline that supplies petroleum products to Northeast Wisconsin. “This year’s shipping season, which typically ends between Christmas and New Year’s, will extend through January and possibly into February, with the U.S. Coast Guard breaking ice to allow for continued shipments of petroleum products within the Great Lakes,” said Dean Haen, director of the Port of Green Bay. “Those shipments, coupled with expected import of additional salt and limestone this month, will help the overall 2016 shipping totals.” 




Download photos on Flickr:

About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce is a bi-national association that represents more than 150 marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber has merged with the Canadian Shipowners Association, combining resources to advocate for an efficient regulatory climate that promotes a strong and competitive marine industry for the benefit of all industry stakeholders throughout the bi-national Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region and along the eastern seaboard and northern coasts.  Based in Ottawa, Canada, the merged entity will continue to be called the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

Media Contact

Julia Fields

Chamber of Marine Commerce


About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) is a bi-national association that represents diverse marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as Canadian domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber advocates for safe, sustainable, harmonized and competitive policy and regulation that recognizes the marine transportation system's significant advantages in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, Coastal and Arctic regions.

Media Contact:
Jason Card
Chamber of Marine Commerce
(613) 447 5401