Skip to Main Content

Year-to-date St. Lawrence Seaway traffic steady as export ore and coal growth offset by lower American grain shipments


Ottawa, Ontario The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation reported that year-to-date shipments from March 22 to July 31 through the St. Lawrence Seaway totalled 17.1 million tonnes, up slightly from 17.0 million for the same period last year.  Cargo shipments for the month of July totalled 3.9 million tonnes, down 3 per cent from the same month in 2011. 

The navigation system continues to see strong growth from coal and iron ore exports and wind turbine imports but has been affected by a decrease in U.S. grain and petroleum, coke and scrap metal.

“July is a traditionally slower month for shipping on the Great Lakes-Seaway system. But we are continuing to see growth in some of our key sectors with iron ore being exported via the Seaway to China and coal being exported to Europe despite the economic conditions there.  There has been very little American winter wheat travelling through the Seaway due to the crop being impacted by flooding earlier this year and we expect that corn and soybeans shipments this autumn will be negatively impacted by the current droughts in the U.S.,” said Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

Year-to-date iron ore and coal shipments have both increased by 28 per cent to 5.2 million tonnes and 2.2 million tonnes respectively.  Shipments of wind turbines are up 32 per cent over the same period last year.

Year-to-date coke shipments (which is used in the production of steel) are down 35 per cent to 770,000 tonnes due to changes in production and delivery flows by steel manufacturers.

Export volumes of U.S. grain via the Seaway system is down 50 per cent to 379,000 tonnes. 

Shipowners like St. Catharines-based Algoma Central Corporation, however, are expecting Canadian grain shipments to be strong this autumn. “The new wheat crop will start moving in September-October and all indications are that it looks pretty good,” said Greg Wight, CEO of Algoma Central Corporation.

Another bright note has been an influx of imported steel products to the Port of Oshawa.  The Port of Oshawa reported that its total year-to-date tonnage has increased by 63 per cent to 205,000 tonnes compared to the same period last year — driven in large part by an influx of steel reinforcing bar for construction of condo apartments in the Greater Toronto Area. The steel is being imported from Turkey and Portugal.  “The Port of Oshawa has had a very busy season.  We have been unloading a lot of steel for condo construction in Toronto.  July was particularly busy with potash also coming in from Thunder Bay and corn shipments starting,” said Frank Robertson of Oshawa Stevedoring, which handles the cargo at the port.  Construction has also begun on a new rail spur, a joint venture between the Port, CN and McAsphalt Industries that is expected to allow greater volume and variety of commodities and products to be shipped through the port.

Hamilton-based McKeil Marine, which operates tug and barges, has also seen a flurry of demand for special project cargo shipments.  In late July, the tug Molly M left Port Weller towing the SVM/86 barge loaded with equipment, which was used to off load large generators from a ship docked in Iqaluit Bay, Nunavut.  The vessel is now reloading the heavy lift equipment for its return trip from Iqaluit.  McKeil also continues to move over-sized cargo such as big tanks and modules from various parts of the Great Lakes to Newfoundland for the construction of the Vale Long Harbour nickel processing plant.

Steve Fletcher, President of McKeil Marine, said: “We have been busy moving one off cargoes from various ports around the lakes through the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway as more and more customers are realizing the benefits of shipping by water.  Companies don’t always have the luxury of transporting their cargo by road or rail due to weight or size restrictions, but travelling via the Seaway provides a cost effective and environmentally-sound solution for them.”




The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, and annually generates $14 billion in salary and wages, $34.6 billion in business revenue, and $4.6 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 metric tons 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.


Follow Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping news on http://www.localhost:10089 and on Twitter @MarineDelivers.



Marine Delivers is a bi-national, industry collaboration that aims to demonstrate the positive economic and environmental benefits, safety, energy efficiency, and sustainability of the shipping industry throughout the Great Lakes-Seaway System. The Marine Delivers initiative is administered by the American Great Lakes Ports Association in the United States, and the Chamber of Marine Commerce in Canada. 

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