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Great Lakes ore shipments down in April

As expected, ore shipments on the Great Lakes were down significantly last month as ships dealt with unprecedented ice conditions, especially in the entry to Lake Superior from the east.

The Lake Carriers’ Association said shipments totaled just 2.7 million tons for April, a 52 percent decrease from last year.

Lake Superior’s ice was so challenging that Coast Guard breakers from the U.S. and Canada had to escort freighters the entire month. Ships weren’t allowed to go on their own until May 2.

Another ice-related factor in the decrease was the inability of downbound freighters to transit the Rock Cut, a stretch of the St. Mary’s River just below the Soo Locks. It was clogged with ice, so vessels had to use the upbound track, reducing how much they could carry.

Through the first four months of the year, the iron ore trade stands at 6.2 million tons, a decrease of nearly 43 percent compared to a year ago and the long-term average for January through April.

The Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes carrying raw materials.