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North Americans relying on Seaway for vital cargo ahead of winter



OTTAWA – Shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway remained strong in October as North American manufacturers and cities stockpiled vital materials in advance of the coming winter and farmers relied on the waterway to export the new harvest.

According to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo tonnage from March 25 to October 31 reached 29.6 million metric tons, up 4.5 per cent over the same period last year. Record grain and robust steel shipments have more than offset a drop in iron ore shipments through the Seaway. Year-to-date grain shipments (including Canada and the U.S.) totaled 8.4 million metric tons, an increase of 49.9 per cent compared to 2013.  This increase was offset by a 26.5 per cent decrease in iron ore volumes through the system and an 11 per cent decrease in coal tonnage.

Great Lakes – Seaway vessels were carrying iron ore and coal to Ontario steel producers ahead of the Seaway’s winter closure and steel shipments for the automotive and construction industries.  Steel shipments remained strong tallying 1.8 million metric tons, up 76 per cent. Cement products, destined for construction projects in Ontario and Great Lakes U.S. states, totaled 1.2 million, up 9 per cent.

With winter weather just weeks away, municipal stockpiling of road salt took on a new sense of urgency. Salt shipments via the Seaway now total 2.3 million metric tons, up by 34 per cent this season. NA mines have been working hard to replenish city reserves in Canada and the U.S. and the Seaway is also seeing salt imported from overseas to meet the high demands. That activity is expected to continue. The Port of Johnstown, for example, is expected to receive 175,000 metric tons of salt in the coming weeks, which will be trucked to municipalities like Ottawa and Kingston.

Grain handlers also started exporting the new soybean harvest out of Ontario ports. Grain shipments at the Port of Hamilton have topped one million metric tons for the season to the end of October, up 8 per cent over the same period last year.

The Seaway also continued to be a vital conduit for Western Canadian farmers, with elevators at the Port of Thunder Bay simultaneously handling the remainder of last year’s bumper crop and the new 2014 harvest.  As of October 31, grain shipments through the port hit 6.3 million metric tons, 73 per cent higher than last season.


  • Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development, St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation— “Autumn is typically the St. Lawrence Seaway’s busiest time as North American steel mills rely on our waterway to stockpile iron ore and coal in advance of the winter months and cities across Canada and the U.S. bring in much-needed salt for road safety. In October, farmers started shipping the new harvest via the Seaway to countries around the world. This activity emphasizes how important the navigation system is to the economic recovery and success of the Canadian and U.S. economies.”
  • Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce— “After losing sailing days due to ice at the start of the season and with only two months left in the season, Great Lakes – Seaway ships are working flat out to deliver for North American businesses and consumers.  This frantic pace is necessary from now all the way to the end of December to make up for lost time.”
  • William Asselstine, Vice-President Logistics, Toronto-based St. Marys Cement (Group Votorantim)— “U.S. construction activity is beginning to pick up, which has had a direct effect on cement demand.  Despite the long winter and slow start to the construction season, during the last few months, ships have been very busy transporting clinker and other raw materials through the St. Lawrence Seaway to our cement plants in Charlevoix and Detroit, Michigan and Bowmanville, Ontario as well as moving finished products to our terminals throughout the Great Lakes.  This is the most cost-effective and environmentally responsible way for us to move these materials.”
  • Captain Scott Bravener, President of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd.— “The Ontario soybean harvest is now underway and we have two vessels working steady out of Hamilton to transport crops through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the ports of Sorel and Port Cartier, where they are then trans-shipped to overseas markets.  The next couple of months will be crucial to ensure that the harvest is transported before the shipping season ends.”
  • Bruce Wood, President and CEO of Hamilton Port Authority— “This is an important time of year for our port users.  Grain shipments through the port are up 8 per cent this season and Ontario’s new harvest is now heading to market. Hamilton’s grain terminals are gearing up for another busy fall season. Our steel producer and other manufacturing-related tenants will also be using the next two months to bring in materials for their activities over the winter.”

Quick Facts

  • The bi-national Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway marine industry generates $35 billion in business revenues and supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada.


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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 shipowners.  The Chamber represents the interests of its members by addressing government issues affecting marine transportation.  Advocacy extends to federal, state/provincial and municipal levels of government.

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