2012 Great Lakes Shipping Season Kicks Off

Posted in Jones Act on March 26, 2012

US-flagged Mesabi Miner

With the opening of the Soo Locks on Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and the St. Lawrence Seaway last Thursday, the 2012 Great Lakes shipping season is officially underway.  Officials this year are projecting an overall increase in cargo shipments across the Great Lakes thanks in part to a stronger economy, both domestically and abroad.

In 2012, U.S.-flag Great Lakes operators moved 93.8 million tons of cargo, an increase of 5.7 percent over 2010, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association, and this winter season saw carriers spend more than $75 million at Great Lakes shipyards and repair facilities in order to maintain and modernize vessels to ensure a safe and profitable 2012 Great Lakes shipping season.

Although the season may have officially started this weekend with the opening of the Soo Locks, a few Jones Act lakers have been on the move for a few weeks now as permitted by a moderate winter season.

The first vessel to get underway this year was the tug/barge unit DOROTHY ANN/PATHFINDER on March 5, which will spend a month shuttling iron ore within Cleveland Harbor.  On March 7, the cement carrier SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN/INNOVATION left its winter berth in Cleveland where it sailed to Alpena, Michigan where it was loaded with cargo to resupply silos in Chicago.  The self-propelled laker JOSEPH L. BLOCK opened the season at Escanaba, Michigan, by loading an iron ore cargo bound for Indiana Harbor on March 15.  Also that day the motor vessel MESABI MINER initiated the coal trade by loading a cargo in Superior, Wisconsin, for delivery to Marquette, Michigan.  Of course many more vessels will be getting underway in the days and weeks ahead, with many timing their departure with the opening of the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan this past weekend.

Great Lakes region and the workers that crew its seagoing vessels plays to crucial role to our nation, and unfortunately often go overlooked by the general public.  More than 225,000 jobs and $34 billion in economic activity are supported by the movement of goods within the region.

So with the 2012 Great Lakes Shipping Season kickoff we would like to wish everyone a safe and prosperous 2012 season!

Photo: The U.S. Flagged Mesabi Miner, a 1,004-foot freighter loaded with 57,152 tons of coal, was the first ship through the Soo Locks. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Detroit District