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Shipping season off to strong start

This year's shipping season is starting off with signs of an improving economy. American-flagged lakers carried 2.55 million tons of cargo in March -- more than four times the amount carried in March 2009. And there were 32 American-flagged laker...

This year's shipping season is starting off with signs of an improving economy.

American-flagged lakers carried 2.55 million tons of cargo in March -- more than four times the amount carried in March 2009. And there were 32 American-flagged lakers in service April 1 compared to just 17 a year ago, according to the Lake Carriers Association.

The numbers have been up all year so far compared to last year. From January through March, American lakers carried 4.9 million tons of cargo, more than triple the amount carried during the same period in 2009. However, shipments are 15 percent off the five-year average for the January-March period.

Both iron and coal tonnage were up dramatically:

- Nearly 2.1 million tons of iron ore were shipped on the lakes in March, compared to 371,692 tons during March 2009.

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- A total of 328,450 tons of coal were shipped on the lakes in March, compared to 56,471 tons during March 2009.

The Lake Carriers Association represent corporations that operate 55 U.S.-flagged vessels on the Great Lakes.

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