Shipping levels best in 6 years

ESCANABA – Iron ore shipments on the Great Lakes totaled 7,231,506 tons in July, the highest level since July 2008 when 7,318,961 tons were loaded at U.S. and Canadian ports.

This July’s total also represents an increase of 8.6 percent over June and 10.2 percent over a year ago, according to data from the Lake Carriers’ Association, which represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes.

U.S. Great Lakes ports accounted for the upturn. Loadings totaled 6,681,796 tons, an increase of nearly 18 percent compared to a year ago.

Shipments from Canadian ports in the Seaway decreased nearly 30 percent, in part because of the closure of Wabush Mines.

Higher water levels have helped the trade rebound after suffering endless delays in March and April when heavy ice formations covered the Lakes.

In Escanaba, 292,289 tons of iron ore were shipped in July, down significantly from the 698,927 tons recorded in July 2013. This number is also slightly down from the five-year average of 360,652 tons.

However, Escanaba has shipped 2,356,567 tons of iron ore so far in 2014 -more than the 1,616,475 at this time in 2013 and higher than the five-year average of 1,911,114 tons.

Elsewhere the largest iron ore cargo loaded in the Head-of-the-Lakes trade in July totaled 69,859 tons.

Even so, that cargo was 2,441 tons less than the record for the ore trade through the Soo Locks, and year-to-date, iron ore shipments are still more than 10 percent off last year’s pace.