Buoyed by strong exports of U.S. petcoke and grain, overall cargo shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway reached 3.8 million metric tons in July.

Total cargo shipments for the season hit 15.7 million metric tons through July, down 7.65% compared to the same time period in 2021.

Year-to-date shipments of petcoke, which is being used for cement production in Europe, reached more than 1 million metric tons at the end of July, an increase of 46% over last year. Meanwhile, U.S. grain shipments via the Great Lakes-Seaway system totaled 511,000 metric tons from March 22 through July 31, an increase of 37% over the same timeframe in 2021. Much of the increase can be attributed to exports of corn and soybeans.

Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said U.S. grain continues to be sent to Europe and North Africa due, in part, to the disruption of trade patterns caused by the Ukraine-Russia war.

“International and cross-border trade has been a major driver of U.S. Great Lakes-Seaway port volumes during the first half of the shipping season,” Burrows said. “With the new harvests coming through soon, we expect U.S. grain exports through the St. Lawrence Seaway to remain strong as we head into the autumn.”

July was a busy month for the Port of Monroe which began exporting wind tower sections to the Port of Oswego. The project, involving a partnership with terminal operator DRM, Monroe-based wind tower manufacturer Ventower Industries and Michigan tug operator Ashton Marine Corp., should be completed late this summer. In addition, the Port of Monroe welcomed a new Manitowoc crawler crane which will used to load tower sections. The crane was acquired with funding through the the Marine Highway program.

The Port of Toledo reports another positive month with cargo shipments hitting nearly six million tons through the end of July. That’s almost 20% above the shipping totals for the same time period a year ago. Grain, iron ore, coal, general cargo and dry bulk are all trending upward.

“It is really amazing the impact that the Cleveland Cliffs DRI plant has had on the Port of Toledo in terms of tonnage, job creation and infrastructure development,” said Joseph Cappel, VP of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We are also seeing some new grain products and bulk materials in our mix this  season. Our strategy of obtaining equipment and constructing facilities that have multiple purposes has worked to our advantage. We are basically positioned to handle any type of cargo that can be loaded onto a vessel at one or more of the marine terminals within the Port of Toledo.”

Led by a sizable iron ore rally, total tonnage through the Port of Duluth-Superior topped 3.8 million short tons in July, the port’s largest monthly total since August 2021. More than 12.6 million tons of waterborne cargo transited Duluth-Superior from mid-March through July 31, which was 13.4% below the five-season average, but also trending positively, with the gap narrowing nearly 5% month over month.

Some 2,537,800 tons of iron ore departed Duluth-Superior in July. This hefty haul lifted the port’s seasonal iron ore total over 7.7 million tons. A companion in taconite processing, limestone also enjoyed a robust July, with 494,096 tons arriving in the port.

“July showed signs of a rebound from what was a slower first half of the maritime shipping season,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director, Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Demand is strong for many of our port’s key cargoes, so we’re expecting tonnage totals to draw closer to the five-season average through the fourth quarter. Hopefully it’ll be a second-half surge, driven by these favorable market forces.”

At Port Milwaukee, steel imports remain strong. So far this shipping season, steel cargo imports are up 31% compared to 2021. “The significant amount of steel cargo traveling through Milwaukee represents the port’s critical role in this year’s strong international shipping season,” said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, director of Port Milwaukee.