Steel Products Prices North America

Status of Great Lakes Iron Ore Shipments

Written by John Packard

Vessels carrying iron ore, metallurgical coal, aggregate and grain continue to work under the force majeure created when ice conditions at the start of the shipping season ended up costing the shipping companies 40 days of lost transit time. At the beginning of the season ice conditions were beyond the Coast Guard’s ice breaking capabilities. Lake Superior and the upper rivers were limited to one-way, escorted traffic until the early part of May.

Now we are seeing unusually cold temperatures all across the United States and there are signs that portions of Lake Superior are already starting to form ice.

The shipping season does not end on Lake Superior until the 15th of January when the Soo Locks close or earlier should ice conditions become dangerous for the vessels.

One of the shipping companies on the Great Lakes told SMU, “We are pushing hard in the final weeks of our season and while water temperatures are lower than “average”, they have not impacted our operation yet. We do recognize that with the cold temperatures, we will start seeing ice being made earlier than normal and that will reduce our efficiency in operating. Wind and weather are always a factor at this time of the year and this year is no exception.

“On the positive side, water levels remain above average and our resulting capabilities have exceeded the anticipated performance that was forecast with an unprecedented late start this spring. With regard to raw materials, we are still sufficiently challenged to meet the demands of the market we serve and will undoubtedly be working until the latest date operationally possible.”

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