St. Lawrence Seaway says surging metals shipments offset grain losses in 2021


Published December 15, 2021 at 1:22 pm

LONDON, Ont. — The organization that oversees the St. Lawrence Seaway says general cargo shipments have surged 71 per cent so far this operating season, helping to offset a weakened grain crop.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. says shipments including steel, aluminum and oversized machinery totalled 3.4 million tonnes between March 22 and Nov. 30, up from just over two million tonnes a year earlier.

In addition, iron ore shipments were up 17.3 per cent to 6.5 million tonnes, while dry bulk shipments including construction materials like stone, cement and gypsum increased 5.7 per cent to 9.7 million tonnes.

Iron ore and steel shipments surpassed 2019 pre-pandemic levels due to growth in domestic consumer product manufacturing and construction.

Coal shipments fell nine per cent to 1.9 million tonnes while liquid bulk was off 0.8 per cent to 2.8 million tonnes.

Overall, cargo shipments increased 1.7 per cent to 33.3 million tonnes as grain exports have shrunk due to smaller harvests. Grain shipments decreased 19.6 per cent to nearly nine million tonnes and dropped to the second largest category. Excluding grain, overall tonnage was up 13 per cent.

“The 2021 season has been an impressive story of recovery and growth in some of our key markets,” stated Seaway CEO Terence Bowles.

“December, as always, is a critical month for our waterway as manufacturers stockpile raw materials and grain/potash exporters get their final products to market before the Seaway closes for winter.” 

The Montreal-Lake Ontario section of the Seaway closes Dec. 31, while the Welland Canal will remain open until Jan. 7 to facilitate domestic shipping between Lake Ontario and the Upper Great Lakes.

Ships arriving this month at the Port of Thunder Bay will load grain and potash for export to Europe. Shipments of the fertilizer are up more than 200,000 tonnes or 70 per cent over 2020 volumes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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