Twin Ports coal tops iron ore for first time since 193202/13:
For only the second time in more than a century, coal has eclipsed iron ore as the No. 1 cargo through the Port of Duluth-Superior, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority announced last week.
Spurred by another record-setting year at the Midwest Energy Resources Co. (MERC) dock in Superior, the port handled 15.04 million metric tons of coal compared with 14.7 million metric tons of iron ore pellets shipped via the DM&IR Ore Docks in Duluth and the BNSF Ore Docks in Superior.
MERC moved 14.9 million metric tons in 2000 while inbound coal through other facilities added 70,250 tons to the overall total.
The Port Authority reported that iron ore was first shipped through Duluth-Superior in 1892 and became the port's dominant cargo in 1895. Since then, the only prior year it had not been the principal cargo was 1932 in the midst of the Great Depression.
The leading cargo in 1932, the Port Authority said, was also coal, but all of the port's coal at that time was inbound. Outbound low-sulfur coal from Montana and Wyoming began in 1976 with the opening of the MERC facility while inbound coal-which often exceeded 10 million tons a year in the 1920's-has steadily declined to an average of less than 100,000 tons annually.
This was the seventh consecutive year that MERC has broken the port's coal-handling record. Of its nearly 15 million tons handled this past season, 11.8 million tons were shipped to other U.S. ports while 3.2 million tons moved to Canada.
All Duluth-Superior cargo in 2000 totaled 37.4 million metric tons, a five percent decrease from 1999's total of 39.5 million and four percent below the port's five-year average.
Reduced iron ore demand and a drop in Great Lakes water levels held domestic cargoes at 25.7 million tons, a six percent decrease from last year's 27.3 million tons. Despite strong western coal shipments to Canada, all international commerce reached 11.7 million tons, three percent below last year's record volume for international trade of 12.1 million tons. Duluth-Superior's previous international trade record stood at 11.8 million tons in 1978.
Low water levels in Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan had a major negative impact on most cargo categories, the Port Authority reported. Most ships were unable to load to maximum Great Lakes drafts because of depth restrictions in lakes' connecting channels.
Following coal and iron ore among Duluth-Superior's leading cargoes was bulk grain at 4.4 million tons.
Twin Ports 2000 shipping activity began with the March 16 departure of Interlake Steamship Company's Paul R. Tregurtha from MERC with 58,000 metric tons of coal destined for Marquette, Mich. Bethlehem Steel Corporation's Stewart J. Cort opened the port's 2000 Great Lakes commercial navigation season, arriving March 26 at Superior's Burlington Northern Santa Fe taconite facility for 49,300 metric tons of iron ore destined for Burns Harbor, Ind.
The port's 2000 St. Lawrence Seaway navigation season officially opened April 3 with the arrival of the Greek vessel Morias at Duluth's Cargill Inc. grain facility for about 16,000 metric tons of corn for Tunisia.
Algoma Central Corporation's bulk carrier Algosound closed the port's St. Lawrence Seaway navigation season with her December 18 departure from Superior's General Mills and Cenex Harvest States grain facilities with 23,392 metric tons of soybeans destined for Port Cartier, Quebec.
Duluth-Superior's last outbound cargo vessel of the season was Upper Lakes Group, Inc.'s, Canadian Olympic that departed January 5 from MERC with about 25,000 metric tons of coal destined for Ontario.
The port's last vessel movement of the season occurred January 13 with the arrival of USS Great Lakes Fleet, Inc.'s Philip R. Clarke for winter berthing at Superior's Fraser Shipyards, Inc. Her arrival brought the total number of vessels wintering in the port to 14.
Total vessel arrivals for the season of 1,107 showed a decrease of 15 from last year. There were 620 U.S.-flag, 302 Canadian-flag and 185 overseas vessels visiting the port.
Reported by: the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and Al Miller