Great Lakes seaway cargo doing well after brutal winter

Higher water levels are allowing the ships to transport more cargo.

Higher water levels are allowing the ships to transport more cargo.

The amount of cargo moved on the St. Lawrence seaway system on the Great Lakes has already surpassed last year's numbers with an increase of 3 percent. This is particularly good news for the shipping industry, which took a hit this spring due to the unusually harsh winter. 

The majority of the seaway was still covered in ice through March and April, so shipments suffered huge delays. The ice has now melted, however, and contributed to the highest water levels the area has seen in 10 years, allowing ships to successfully carry more cargo.

For every inch of added water, the Greenbay Press Gazette reports, ships can carry an additional 100 tons without extra charge. Officials are hoping this positive development will assist in making up for delays experienced earlier in the year.

"Higher water levels and increased vessel utilization rates are allowing the fleet to narrow the gap between this year and last caused by the brutal winter of 2013/2014," the Lake Carriers' Association said in its monthly report. However, the report goes on to add, "Great Lakes water levels normally begin their seasonal decline in the fall, so going forward, loads will likely be smaller." 

Professionals in the area also credit the revived shipping industry with an increased demand for the transportation of grain and construction materials. U.S. grain shipments are up 13 percent from last year, and general cargo tonnage is up by 66 percent. So, although the water levels will likely decrease as we head towards fall, there's still a chance that the carriers can make up for time lost this spring.

The shipping industry is complicated, with many unpredictable logistical considerations to keep in mind. If you're not an expert in transportation, be sure to hire a third-party contractor to take care of you and your shipment needs.