Great Lakes shipping season begins
The 2013 Great Lakes shipping season began on March 2 with the sailing of the tug/barge unit Prentiss Brown/St. Marys Conquest.
The vessel, operated by Port City Marine Services, departed its winter lay-up berth in Milwaukee and sailed for Charlevoix, Mich., where it loaded 9,200 tons of cement for delivery to Chicago, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association.
Next to get underway was the tug/barge unit Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder. The vessel, one of 10 operated by The Interlake Steamship Co., loaded about 13,000 tons of iron ore at Cleveland Bulk Terminal on March 4 for delivery to the steel mill at the end of the deep-draft section of the Cuyahoga River.
The next vessels to enter service will be two cement carriers on March 7. The iron ore trade out of Escanaba, Mich., is expected to resume on March 14.
Over the next several weeks, the association said 52 more U.S.-flag lakers will return to service and spend 10-plus months hauling raw materials such as iron ore, limestone and coal. The Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes.
Iron ore for steel production is the primary cargo moved by U.S.-flag lakers. In 2012, the fleet moved more than 45 million tons of taconite pellets. Limestone for the construction industry and steel-making approached 22 million tons. Coal for power generation totaled more than 17 million tons. Other cargos included cement, salt, sand and grain and collectively totaled 5 million tons.
Those totals were impacted by the dredging crisis on the Great Lakes. At the end of 2012, the largest vessels were leaving more than 10,000 tons of cargo behind because of inadequate dredging and falling water levels. More than 18 million cubic yards of sediment now clog Great Lakes ports and waterways, the association said.
Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate that would require the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to spend what it takes in for dredging on dredging. H.R. 335 was presented on Jan. 22 and already has 94 co-sponsors, 17 from Great Lakes districts, while S. 218 was introduced on Feb. 4, and has 31 co-sponsors, including 12 of the 16 Great Lakes senators. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it would cost about $200 million to restore the Great Lakes Navigation System, just a fraction of the surplus amassed in the HMTF.
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