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St. Lawrence Seaway meets construction cargo demand


A steady demand for construction materials is keeping the St. Lawrence Seaway busy this season. The transport of dry bulk cargo is at nearly 3 million metric tons, up 7.5 per cent through the first part of the season, April 2 through June 30. Leading the way are 102,000 metric tons of stone, a 24 per cent increase. Cement products saw a healthy upswing to 563,000 metric tons, a 9.5 per cent increase.

Much of the growth has to do with the rebounding U.S. construction market for residential, commercial and infrastructure projects including roads and bridges. Materials have been heading from several Canadian-based companies to U.S. ports including Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Saginaw and Chicago.

Key Canadian destinations include Thunder Bay, Mississauga, Windsor, Sarnia and Toronto.

Lower Lakes Towing, based in Port Dover, Ontario, has seen an upturn in the demand for construction materials over the last two seasons, despite late starts due to ice conditions and is moving cargo from quarries in Colborne, Meldrum Bay, Thessalon, Bruce Mines and Badgely Island.

In addition, St. Marys Cement, headquartered in Toronto, continues to load cement products from its plant in Bowmanville, Ontario.

Lafarge, with main Canadian office locations in Calgary and Toronto, noted that the demand for materials remains high, despite the fact recent heavy rains in parts of the U.S. and Canada have somewhat slowed the pace of building projects.

In addition to construction materials, other dry bulk cargo also saw surges. Nearly 527,000 metric tons of coke was transported via the Seaway through April 2 to the end of June, a 41 per cent increase over the same period last year. Pig iron also saw an 8 per cent increase with 21,000 metric tons.

Across the board, however, total year-to-date (April 2 through June 30) cargo tonnage on the Seaway was 10.4 million metric tons, down 8.4 per cent, with iron ore down almost 12 per cent and coal shipments down 32 per cent. Despite the numbers, officials say that it’s still too early in the season to predict an outcome and are optimistic the Seaway will see a boost.


Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, said: “Shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway is one of the key drivers of the U.S. and Canadian economies. Although there has been a decrease in overall tonnage on the Seaway, it’s still early in the season. Historically, we tend to see a push at the end of the season, especially with grain.”

Capt. Scott Bravener, President of Lower Lakes Towing, said: “Although we had a later start to the season due to ice conditions, the demand for construction materials has been strong in the major markets we serve. The construction sector has been somewhat flat since 2008, but we saw a slight uptick in activity last year and have seen that grow even more so far this season. The rise in homebuilding in the U.S. has been a leading contributor to the increase.”

Tom Brown, Logistics Manager with Lafarge U.S. said: “According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA), the market for construction materials is expected to rebound in 2015, however, that expectation has somewhat slowed in the second quarter due to heavy rain in the U.S. and Canada, which has impacted projects. That being said, increases in residential and commercial building have contributed to the growth in cement volumes in Great Lakes states, so we are still optimistic for a solid rebound. We have seen positive signs for the demand in transportation on the Great Lakes, which can be attributed to less severe ice on the lakes this year.” Brown also added: “Being able to transport cargo on the Great

Lakes Seaway helps us to bring value to our customers. Maintaining strong relationships between shippers and carriers is key.”

Jim Reznik, Distribution Manager for St. Marys Cement said: “Signs remain positive for the movement of cement and clinker from our manufacturing plants to our terminals. A rainy June slowed movement of materials somewhat, which will condense the season slightly, but overall, business continues to do well. We continue to be optimistic that the season will end on a good note provided the weather cooperates.”


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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 ship owners. 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 613-294-8515 

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