Low demand leaves much of Great Lakes shipping at the dock
This shipping season is shaping up as an unusually tough one for freighters on the Great Lakes. Four 1,000-footers out of the 13 that serve the lakes are sidelined at a time of year when these workhorses typically are running hard. The latest cas...
This shipping season is shaping up as an unusually tough one for freighters on the Great Lakes.
Four 1,000-footers out of the 13 that serve the lakes are sidelined at a time of year when these workhorses typically are running hard.
The latest casualty is the Edgar B. Speer, a member of the Great Lakes Fleet. The 1,004-foot laker is tied up at Hallett Dock No. 5 and probably will be out of commission for a few weeks as it undergoes repairs to its bow thruster.
Three other 1,000-footers also have been idled, but not for mechanical issues.
The 1,004-foot Mesabi Miner recently tied up in Sturgeon Bay because of weak demand for service, said Mark Barker, president of Interlake Steamship Co., the ship's owner. It's the same story for the 1,000-foot Stewart J. Cort berthed in Milwaukee, waiting for the market to improve.
The American Spirit, a 1,004-foot-long member of the American Steamship Co., remains parked at the Lakehead Pipeline dock, awaiting its first voyage of the season.
Half of the Duluth-based Great Lakes Fleet is out of service. In addition to the Speer, the 767-foot Philip R. Clarke and Arthur M. Anderson, plus the 858-foot Roger Blough all are inactive, waiting for demand to improve.
"There's no denying the number of ships tied up is reflective of poor demand this year," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of corporate communications for the Lake Carriers Association. He pointed out that just eight of the American steel industry's 36 blast furnaces in the Great Lakes region are operating.
And it's not just shipments of iron ore pellets that are down this year. As taconite mines slow down pellet production, their appetite for lime has declined.
Stone and cement shipments have been soft, too, as a result of diminished construction activity, Nekvasil said.
"It seems like everything is off," Barker said.