Great Lakes
via Maritime Chamber of Commerce

USA - Great Lakes Shipping Hit With Demand Slump Amid Pandemic

Traffic is down at the Soo Locks. Demand for iron ore and other commodities is down compared to last year. But some Great Lakes shipping companies are beginning to see things get a little bit better.

“We are starting to see a rebound from where we were in the summer time,” says Lake Carrier Association spokesperson Eric Peace. “[Demand] is starting to move up for iron ore, limestone and some of the other commodities as well."

Cargo shipments of iron ore through November are down nearly 25% compared to 2019, while limestone cargo tonnage is down 16%, according to the Lake Carriers Association, a trade group representing 11 member companies operating 46 commercial cargo vessels on the Great Lakes.

Demand is creeping up only after a long and difficult year when the manufacturing industry temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Peace says American shipping companies transported nearly 90 million tons of cargo total in 2019. Through November this year there’s been 36.6 million tons of iron ore shipped, and about 25.5 million tons of limestone.

Canadian and American carriers – the massive, long freighters sometimes visible on a Great Lakes horizon – traverse the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway hauling cargo to and from ports in both countries. Data from the Lake Carriers Association is a view of just one aspect of the shipping industry, as its members are made up of American carriers focused primarily on transporting iron ore and limestone.

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