Although there's approximately one month left to the 2021 shipping season, industry analysts suggest that it's been a strong one for the Twin Ports; It should finish about 7 million tons of cargo above last years numbers.

The Great Lakes shipping season will end of January 15; that's the date that the Soo Locks close which ends local traffic.  Foreign imports and exports from overseas will come to a halt on December 31 when the St. Lawrence Seaway closes.

Locally, it's been good news for the shipping industry.  Deb Deluca, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority shared:

"As we close in on the season's final weeks, we can say it's been a strong rebound from the COVID-induced lows of 2020.  Total tonnage here at the Head of the Lakes is more than 30% above last year's pace and also slightly above the five season average.  That's good news for the region and good news for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System as a whole."

According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], even the number of visiting ships has increased.  During 2021, 627 vessels have traveled through the Port as of the end of November; last year for the same period, the Duluth-Superior Port saw 534 vessels.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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In regards to iron ore shipments, numbers have been up this year - even as they slowed recently.  In general, tonnage has been up.  Here's a look at iron ore tonnage as it pertains to each individual dock location:

  • Duluth:  8.3 million tons in 2021; 7.3 million tons in 2020
  • Superior:  10.6 million tons in 2021; 6.4 million tons in 2020
  • Two Harbors:  13.8 million tons in 2021; 11.6 million tons in 2020
  • Silver Bay:  5.5 million tons in 2021; 3.9 million tons in 2020

November's numbers overall saw a slight dip in iron ore tonnage:   "4.2 million tons....compared to 4.25 million tons in November 2020".  That drop - albeit a slight one - "marked the first month so far in 2021 that ire cargoes failed to beat the number from a season ago".

Local shipping industry leaders suggest, though that the dip is nothing to worry about.  "The 47.1 million tons or iron ore moved so far in 2021 outstripped last year's pandemic-curbed total of 36.6 million tons, and is ahead of the five year average of roughly 46 million tons."

The ship James R. Barker leaving Duluth, MN on Lake Superior
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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