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Shipping Industry: Hoping for Heavier Loads

Posted at: 02/22/2013 10:28 AM
Updated at: 02/22/2013 10:41 AM

As the Great Lakes shipping industry awaits the reopening of the Soo Locks, shippers hope for heavier loads and deeper water for 2013.

Glen Nekvasil, vice president for Lake Carriers Association, said Great Lakes cargo loads were down by about 5 percent in 2012. U.S. flag vessels on the Great Lakes carried 90 million tons of cargo — that’s about 4.6 percent less than 2011, Nekvasil said.

Nekvasil said he couldn’t predict what the next shipping season would bring when the Soo Locks reopen on March 25. “We are a service industry,” Nekvasil said. “Ships do not create demand for cargo, they meet demand for cargo.”

Tonnage could be affected by decreasing coal and iron ore shipments, as well as low lake levels. Iron ore shipments were down by 4 percent in 2012 at 45 million tons, while coal shipments were down by 13 percent at 17.6 million tons.

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie have been closed since Jan. 15, and will reopen on March 25.

The locks are closed to comply with a federal mandate that requires the closure for routine maintenance. Most ships take the time to also do maintenance.