Poor weather impacts limestone trade on the Great Lakes


Updated Mon, 12 Jan 2015 13:19:58 GMT

November 2014: limestone and coal shipments decline

In November 2014, limestone shipments on the Great Lakes fell by 4.4% y/y to 2.7 million t. The decline has been attributed to poor weather conditions. According to the Lake Carriers’ Association, many vessels anchored or opted for longer routes to avoid the worst of the weather. Shipment volumes for January – November 2014 were also down on the corresponding period in 2013, falling by 2.4% y/y to 25.7 million t.

The weather also impacted coal shipments in November, with Lakes coal trade dropping by 3% y/y to 2.6 million t in November and by 4.8% y/y to 21.4 million t in the first 11 months of 2014.

Call for additional measures to address icy conditions

The Lake Carriers’ Association has called for the construction of a second heavy icebreaker to partner with the US Coast Guard’s MACKINAW and help keep shipping lanes open during freezing weather.

US-flag cargo movement decreased by almost 7 million t y/y between 1 December 2013 and 30 May 2014 as a result of the harsh weather conditions. According to the Association, the remainder of 2014 was spent catching up with winter 2013/2014’s shortfall, with, for example, limestone trade not properly resuming until April.

It has been estimated that the ice and subsequent impact on shipping cost the economy approximately US$705 million and some 3800 jobs.

“I want to stress that Lake Carriers’ Association and our members’ customers deeply appreciate the efforts of the US and Canadian Coast Guards this past ice season,” said James H.I. Weakley, President of the trade association representing US-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes. “They are the only reason we were able to move nearly 10 million t of cargo under such challenging conditions. Still, it is clear that the ice conditions that prevailed last winter call for a reassessment of both nations’ icebreaking fleets. At a minimum, Congress must authorise construction of a twin to the MACKINAW so we can have two high-powered American icebreakers on the Lakes. Another 140 ft-long icebreaking tug must be assigned to the Lakes at least until the service life extension program currently underway for the six existing 140s is completed later this decade.”