St. Lawrence Seaway tonnage increased 4 percent to nearly 39 million metric tons during 2012
Monday, January 14, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Tonnage through the St. Lawrence Seaway increased by 4 percent to 38.9 million metric tons during the 2012 navigation season.

That exceeded the forecast by 300,000 tons thanks in part to a late season surge in grain movements, according to the Seaway Management Corporation.

Strong performance within a number of core markets contributed to an overall gain of 1.4 million ton for the year, when compared to the Seaway’s 2011 result of 37.5 million ton.

Demand for low sulphur coal in Europe led to a substantial increase in coal volumes, while busy Chinese steel mills triggered an upsurge in the demand for iron ore. The shipments of coal and iron ore were brought to the Great Lakes and loaded on domestic laker vessels. The lakers then proceeded from the Great Lakes to the lower St. Lawrence River, where the commodities were trans-shipped to larger ocean vessels, for export to overseas destinations.

On the grain front, 2012 was a story of contrasts as strong Canadian grain movements offset a sharp drop in U.S. grain movements, due to the drought which impacted the majority of the U.S. grain belt.

“The Seaway was instrumental in providing grain shippers with the means to rapidly respond and capitalize on market opportunities late in the season,” said Seaway management’s President and CEO Terence Bowles.

A number of new vessels came into service in 2012, boasting sharp increases in fuel efficiency and reductions in emission levels. “These new vessels, part of a billion dollar fleet renewal effort by domestic and ocean carriers, combined with our marketing efforts which have recorded 10.6 million ton in new business over the past five years, underscore the Seaway’s future potential,” added Bowles.

The 2012 season also witnessed an advance in navigational technology. “The commissioning of the Draft Information System (DIS) further enhances vessel safety and efficiency”, said Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “A vessel equipped with DIS can now precisely gauge the amount of water under the ship’s keel, given satellite guided navigation combined with highly precise models of the channel floor.”

The St. Lawrence Seaway closed for the season on December 29,

For more information on the Seaway, visit