The Lake Carriers’ Association has stated that significant ice coverage played a role in the seven percent decrease in cargo movement by US-Flag vessels on the Great Lakes in April. With the thickest ice seen in years, delays and slower transit times helped limit shipments to 9.2 million net tons.
The dredging crisis remained a millstone around the industry’s neck in April. The largest iron ore cargo totaled 62,823 tons, which meant the vessel left port only 88% full. The largest coal cargo was even less ’ 62,503 tons.
An increase in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Great Lakes dredging budget this year will only scratch the surface of the dredging crisis. The backlog of dredging projects totals 18 million cubic yards of sediment. The Corps anticipates removing one million yards of backlog this year. However, the Administration’s proposed budget for FY09 slashes nearly $50 million from the Corps’ Lakes’ appropriation. If Congress does not increase funding for next year, it is doubtful any backlog will be removed in 2009 and America’s iron, steel, power generation, and construction industries will continue to suffer from vessels having to leave cargo behind.
For the year, US-Flag carriage is down by 110,000 tons, but compared to the five-year average for the January-April time frame, shipments are off by three percent.