Iron shipments pick up in November
Memories of the mining downturn are getting buried under taconite as a rebound in iron ore shipments pushed last month's tonnage above the five-year average for November. "It was heartening for us here at the head of the lakes to finally see an u...
Memories of the mining downturn are getting buried under taconite as a rebound in iron ore shipments pushed last month's tonnage above the five-year average for November.
"It was heartening for us here at the head of the lakes to finally see an uptick in iron ore shipments," Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, said in a press release. "We all know it's been a slow, painful climb out of last year's mining industry downturn. Seeing pellets pick up pace through the Port of Duluth-Superior is encouraging."
More than 1.5 million tons were shipped out of the Twin Ports last month, beating the 1.3 million average for the month, according to Lake Carriers' Association data released Tuesday.
It will still take a big late-season push to get the year's shipping season above the base line, as the port of Duluth-Superior is tracking 1.5 million tons below year-to-date averages. Two Harbors, meanwhile, is right on target through November, while Silver Bay is off its 2011-2015 average by more than 2 million tons.
Among all Great Lakes ports shipping iron ore, shipments were about 4 million tons below average for the year so far but 100,000 tons above the monthly average.
The recent uptick is partly due to domestic steel production rising 6.8 percent last month compared to November 2015, according to the World Steel Association. But the Chamber of Marine Commerce also cites better world pricing and exports to China and Japan.
"The St. Lawrence Seaway has been a significant export gateway for American grain and iron ore pellets this season, and that's expected to continue in these final weeks of December," said chamber president Bruce R. Burrows in a news release.
Grain continues to be a bright spot for the Twin Ports as shipments remain 25 percent above the port's recent yearly average. The port has also seen 15 percent more Canadian lakers than usual through November, which Coda called "reflective of increased shipments of iron ore and grain through the Seaway."
U.S.-flagged ships 7 percent more cargo overall last month compared to November 2015, according to the Lake Carriers' Association, which represents 56 vessels. However, it was still a below-average showing driven in part by a steep drop in coal shipments as well as a drop in aggregate and fluxstone. Year-to-date shipments are 5.6 million tons off average.