Great Lakes Ports See Shipping Rebound in 2021

Great Lakes ports are reporting a rebound in cargo shipments this year after the region’s largest port witnessed historic lows during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The Port of Duluth-Superior bounced back this year after cargo shipments dropped to their lowest level in 2020 since 1938 with a total of 25.8 million tons moving through the lakes’ largest port. As of the end of November, the port had handled around 29 million tons of cargo, marking a 30 percent increase from the same time last year.

The Port of Green Bay reported that cargo shipments were up 9 percent from the same time last year through November, handling a total of roughly 1.8 million tons. Last year, the port moved around 1.9 million tons — down more than 15 percent from 2019.

Port Milwaukee declined to comment on the 2021 shipping season as port officials await final numbers.

Other Great Lakes ports like Cleveland said overall cargo shipped was up by more than 50 percent while the Port of Toledo saw overall tonnage increase 22 percent as of the end of November, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

“U.S. Great Lakes ports have roared back this year — recovering from major 2020 declines in traditional cargoes like iron ore and steel but also developing new business and seizing on opportunities for infrastructure investment,” said Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce in a statement.

The St. Lawrence Seaway, which serves as a gateway between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast, saw iron ore shipments rise 17 percent while general cargo shipments increased 71 percent through November.