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New Coal Shipments to Europe Established Through St. Lawrence Seaway


Ottawa, Ontario  (November 16, 2011) – Year-to-date cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway remain steady bolstered by healthy increases in Canadian grain shipments and petroleum products as well as the development of new traffic of coal exports through the waterway to Europe.

The Seaway’s year-to-date total cargo shipments from March 22 to October 31st were 29 million tonnes, up two per cent from the same period last year.  When compared to 2010 figures, strong gains were seen in shipments of Canadian grain, which increased by 15 per cent to 4.7 million tonnes; and in shipments of petroleum products from refineries in regions like Nanticoke and Sarnia to St. Lawrence River ports, which are up by 90 per cent to 2 million tonnes.   

Shipments of project cargo since the start of the navigation season are also up 31 per cent to 128,000 tonnes compared to 2010.   Year-to-date U.S. grain shipments are down 40 per cent to 1.2 million tonnes compared to last year, while iron ore remains down by 17 per cent with a total of 7 million tonnes so far this season.

Coal shipments, which totalled close to 3 million as of October 31st, have been helped by the St. Lawrence Seaway increasingly being chosen as the shipping route to export low-sulphur coal to European markets.  The coal is transported by rail from the Powder River Basin in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming to the port in Superior, Wisconsin, where it is then transported by ship through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system. 

Montreal-based Canada Steamship Lines, which operates one of the largest Canadian fleets on the Great Lakes-Seaway, has transported more than 300,000 tonnes of coal from Superior, Wisconsin to the Port of Quebec from mid-summer to mid-October, where it has then been loaded onto ocean-going vessels for export to Europe.

Tom Brodeur, vice-president of marketing and customer service for Canada Steamship Lines, said: “The U.S. is exporting 100 million tonnes of coal a year. Congestion is occurring in East Coast and Gulf of Mexico ports and shippers are looking for alternative routes.  The St. Lawrence Seaway is the most efficient route for many companies to send their products from the interior of North America to the Atlantic Ocean and across to European destinations. Our coal shipments will definitely be going up next season.”

The Port of Thunder Bay, which is the largest grain handling port on the Great Lakes-Seaway system, reported that its shipments of grain to Southern Ontario and international markets have increased by 20 per cent this season to 4.6 million, compared to 2010.

Tim Heney, chief executive of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, said: “Canadian wheat shipments are strong, but we’ve also seen a huge amount of canola coming through our Port.  We’ve also had our strongest year ever in shipments of project cargo such as wind turbines and heavy machinery.  In October, for example, Lake Shore Gold Corp transported a large mill unit for their Timmins mine via ship from Europe to the Port.”

Ray Johnston, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said:  “Overall, shipping traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway has remained steady so far this season despite wider global economic concerns. The development of new shipping traffic, such as coal exports to Europe, is a promising indication of the waterway’s future prospects.”

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry supports 227,000 jobs in Canada and the U.S., and annually generates $14.5 billion in salary and wages, $34.6 billion in business revenue and $4.7 billion in federal, state/provincial and local taxes. North American farmers, steel producers, construction firms, food manufacturers, and power generators depend on the 164 million tonnes of essential raw materials and finished products that are moved annually on the system. This vital trade corridor saves companies $3.6 billion per year in transportation costs compared to the next least-costly land-based alternative.

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