U.S.-flag Great Lakes carriers moved about 11.36 million tons of cargo in July, their highest monthly total in two years, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association, which represents 17 companies operating 57 U.S.-flag vessels.
The industry’s July total also represented increases of 8.6 percent compared to June, and 10.2 percent compared to a year earlier, the group said.
Iron ore for steel production totaled 5.3 million tons, an increase of nearly 15 percent compared to a year ago.
“Higher water levels did allow for some cargoes to approach 70,000 tons, but even so, the vessels were still less than full. With 18 million cubic yards of sediment clogging ports and waterways, only dredging will fully restore the Great Lakes Navigation System,” LCA warned.
Coal cargoes reached 2.1 million tons, a slight increase compared to a year ago. Loadings on Lake Superior remained unchanged from a year ago, and on Lake Michigan, loadings dropped 50 percent, but these shipments from Lake Erie ports rose 65 percent.
The association noted shipments of limestone — 3.4 million tons — reached their highest level in two years, an increase of more than 10 percent compared to a year ago.
Year-to-date, U.S.-flag cargo movement stands at 38.4 million tons, a decrease of 10.8 percent compared to a year ago.
“Even though 55 U.S.-flag lakers were in service in July, an increase of five hulls compared to a year ago, the fleet has yet to overcome the thousands of hours lost to heavy ice formations in March and April,” LCA said.
“Decreases in cargo totals are not the only impact of the brutal winter. Repairing the damage that ice did to U.S.-flag lakers has cost LCA’s members more than $5.7 million,” it added.