Economy in the dumps? Not on Lake Superior.

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Two reports came out this week demonstrating the resurgence in shipping from Great Lakes ports, including the Port of Duluth-Superior.

With three months to go before ice closes the shipping season, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority reports tonnage shipped so far up 25 percent from the same period the year before.

As a whole, St. Lawrence Seaway Cargo shipping is up 18 percent over the same period. The Seaway includes ports across the Great Lakes from Duluth to Montreal.

Shipping figures include cargo coming and going. Some of the Seaway tonnage includes steel imports from Romania and South America. There’s also some wind turbines moving along the lakes from Quebec to Indiana.

In Duluth, the lions share of tonnage traditionally goes to taconite shipping. The small mostly-iron pellets are heavy, and a lot of them move through Duluth and Superior docks.

When you consider a 25 percent increase in tonnage, you need to understand that taconite shipping skidded to a virtual halt around the early summer of 2009. Since then, the demand for taconite from steel mills has slowly edged upward, reopening Iron Range taconite mines, and restoring much of the taconite movement by ships. Taconite shipping alone is up 69 percent over last year’s dismal figures.

But the real story in Twin Ports shipping is grain. Grains shipments to ships through Duluth and Superior elevators is running 89 percent over the same period last year. It’s also up 15 percent over the five year average. In September alone, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the port experienced a 123 pecent increase in outbound grain shipments; primarily durum wheat and spring wheat going to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Much of that grain demand is blamed on shortages in Russia and a Russian ban on grain exports from that country.

Although not necessarily connected, employment figures just released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development show the Duluth-Superior metropolitan market gaining over 1,000 jobs between August and September, at a time the state as a whole lost almost 10,000.

  • Phil, Ohio

    Lorain’s steel mill is all but shut down and early this month the Hamilton, Canada steel mill closed, so who is buying all this ore to make steel?

    China?

    As for the grain.

    Is this why its being reported in the US news media that grain cost are going up?

    Russia’s farmland and crops burned earlier this year.

    Any wheat or corn going to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, may later be sold to Russia by the middlemen in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

  • Bob Kelleher

    (Kelleher) I have been hearing some noise that steel production may be slowing. If so, that will certainly affect both iron ore (taconite) production and lake shipping in the coming months. The biggest factor might be domestic auto production, and I think they’re doing OK for now. I just heard Chrysler (of all companies) had a pretty good month with a new Jeep Grand Cherokee.