Three Great Lakes freighters are slated for earlier-than-usual layups, putting 100 crewmembers out of work, because of the pandemic’s cooling effect on steel bound for auto plants.
Automotive shutdowns in the spring sunk steel demand, but nearly two months after resuming activities, it hasn’t rebounded. Great Lakes shipped 4mn t (3.6mn mt) of iron ore last month, marking a 29.9pc decline from June 2019. Of six mines and taconite plants located around Lake Superior’s ‘Iron Range,’ three are still observing moratoriums on activity. These plants typically supply the northern US, Canada, and the Great Lakes supply chain in general.
According to the Lake Carriers’ Association, iron ore shipments last month were also 29.7pc below the five-year average. Through H1 2020, iron ore shipments totaled 17.2mn t, declining by 14.9pc from 20.2mn t during the corresponding period in 2019. Iron ore shipments through the first half of the year were 13.4pc below the five-year average.
The pandemic has proven ruinous for the shipping industry, for which the three sidelined ships— the 1,004-ft Edgar B Speer, the 858-ft Roger Blough, and the 767-ft Philip R Clarke—are only the latest blow. The Soo Locks, located in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and facilitating shipping between Lake Superior and the Great Lakes, isn’t expected to reopen until March.