Asian demand for U.S. iron ore is driving up freight volumes on the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Overall cargo tonnage, including mining products and grain, rose by 8.5 per cent to 33 million tonnes on the water route as of the end of November, from the same period a year ago, the Chamber of Marine Commerce said on Thursday.
Shipments of iron ore pellets, which are used to make steel, rose by 34 per cent to 7.4 million tonnes as China secured raw materials to feed its manufacturing facilities. Demand was also aided by higher commodity prices, Canadian demand for domestic ore and U.S. tariffs that have spurred sales to U.S. mills on the lower Great Lakes.
The Port of Duluth-Superior at the western tip of Lake Superior is one of the main ore hubs on the Great Lakes. Most of the U.S. bulk ships that sail the Great Lakes are too big to traverse the Welland Canal that connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario, said Adele Yorde, a spokeswoman for Duluth Seaway Port Authority in Minnesota.
Instead, smaller ships owned by Canada’s Algoma Central Corp. and CSL Group carry much of the Minnesota ore destined for Quebec City, where it is transferred to ocean-going ships for foreign buyers. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of Canadian lakers coming in to pick up those pellets this year,” Ms. Yorde said by phone.