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Shipping through port up in 2018

The Walter J. McCarthy Jr. entering the Duluth ship canal in 2018. Shipping traffic was up for the year in the Twin Ports. file / News Tribune

Shipments moved through the Port of Duluth-Superior were up for 2018.

The port handled over 35.9 million short tons of cargo in 2018, up slightly from the 35.3 million tons moved in 2017, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

But it was an even stronger year for shipments of iron ore, which were up nine percent compared to 2017 and were higher than the five-year average by over 30 percent.

"Shipments of Minnesota iron ore accounted for the lion's share of tonnage moved through the Port of Duluth-Superior—21.5 million short tons, to be exact," said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

Kelsey Johnson, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, credits that jump to higher demand for ore from Iron Range's mines.

"The 2018 shipping season has shown considerable strength and demand for domestic iron ore," Johnson said in a statement. "During this winter break, our mines will continue to produce iron ore inventory as we prepare for a successful 2019 shipping season."

Shipments of grain through the port were also up 20 percent from last year.

Meanwhile, shipments of coal through the port was down in 2018 compared to 2017, as demand for the fossil fuel continues to fall.

Throughout the Great Lakes, shipping by U.S.-flag freighters was down slightly in 2018 compared to 2017 by about 2.3 percent, the Lake Carriers' Association announced earlier this month.

But the association said the season mostly rebounded after start slow due to ice last spring.

With the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, which connect Lake Superior to the other Great lakes, closed for the season until late March, the Great Lakes shipping season has ended. During the offseason, several ships are wintering in the port.

Overall international shipments were up last year as cargoes through the St. Lawrence Seaway, which links the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, rose seven percent compared to 2017 and had its best year since 2007, the port authority noted.

The seaway, which closed in December, will reopen to shipping traffic in late March.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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