Great Lakes Shipping Season Starts, But Ice Still Halts Cargo

 In cargo, Great Lakes, shipping

“With three blasts from its horn, the freighter John G. Munson signaled the start of the Twin Ports shipping season on Monday,” reported Pioneer Press on on Monday, March 23rd.

There’s still a great deal of ice in the Great Lakes as ships like the Munson begin making their way through the cold waterways to pick up and drop off cargo. Ice-cutting ships are out, helping make way through the Great Lakes.

The Pioneer Press article, mentioned above, speaks of a couple such ice-cutting ships and the optimism about the start to the shipping season in the Great Lakes:

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alder departed after the Munson en route to Whitefish Point, where significant ice cover will come between the Munson and the Soo Locks. The Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw will be working its way through the ice from the other direction.

Although ice still is prevalent in the eastern Great Lakes, this year’s shipping season should get off to a better start than last year’s, Yorde said.

“The industry felt it lost four weeks of shipping time (last year),” she said.

While the Pioneer Press highlights the optimism for a better start than last year, this year’s ice has already caused problems for Great Lakes shipping.

On the same day the Pioneer Press posted the story of the John G. Munson getting the Twin Ports shipping season started, the New York Times posted a story by Ian Austen and Mary M. Chapman featuring a cargo ship getting trapped in the ice of the Great Lakes.

The New York Times article begins:

The trip to pick up a load of iron ore powder in Conneaut, Ohio, was supposed to take four days by way of the Great Lakes.

But within sight of its destination, the cargo ship, the Arthur M. Anderson, got trapped in ice. Two heavy icebreakers from the Canadian Coast Guard eventually broke the vessel free.

It was a 24-day ordeal, and the ship returned to its home port in Wisconsin without picking up the cargo.

While shipping through the Great Lakes greatly slows in the late winter months, ships are still usually able to make short trips. Unfortunately, two harsh winters in a row have proven extremely costly for Great Lakes shipping that is crucial for a wide range of industries in the U.S. Midwest and Canada, not only in receiving needed cargo shipments but exporting goods to markets around the world.

The New York Times article helps give a good grasp on how costly the winter was for Great Lakes Shipping last year:

Last year’s ice-induced delays reduced early shipments from the United States by seven million tons, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association, which represents American shipowners. That amounts to about 10 percent of all American shipments on the lakes.

While this winter was a little less severe than last, it was still quite severe.

In 2014, ice cover peaked at 92.5 percent, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ice persisted in some places until June. This year, ice cover was 89.1 percent.

As the shippers who were trying to move iron ore powder on the cargo ship Arthur M. Anderson already know, this year’s ice will have its effects and costs on Great Lakes shipping. Shippers are hoping that this year, the ice won’t cost a month of the shipping season.

For many cargo shipments that go through the Great Lakes, truck and rail simply are not viable options. For companies trying to recover from losses suffered by last year’s severe winter and ice delays in the Great Lakes, a loss of a month of cargo shipping through the Great Lakes this year could be disastrous.

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Source: Shipping

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