Choppy waters? Shipping in Twin Ports slightly down this year

The Port of Duluth has seen a slight dip in the amount of goods and ships passing through its entry compared to last year.
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 4:56 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - The Port of Duluth has seen a slight dip in the amount of goods and ships passing through its entry compared to last year.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority tracks how many ships, and what’s on them, pass under the Aerial Lift Bridge each year. On a month-to-month basis, the Port Authority tracks everything from grain to iron ore to coal. This season is about 8.8% below the five-season average.

According to the latest statistics, around 468 vessels have passed through the port so far this year. At the same time last year, that number was 486.

“I would say we’re averaging about three, two to three ships a day,” Scott Bjorklund, a Park Ranger at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center said.

Just steps away from the visitor center and museum is the Aerial Lift Bridge, which Bjorklund watches as ships come through.

“We do here at the museum, we do keep track of each ship that comes in and out, the times they come in, what cargo they’re bringing,” he said.

The visitor center keeps a schedule of the ships and boats that come through the port. Bjorklund said the schedule is a little bit lighter this year.

“But it definitely does feel a little bit less than last year,” he said.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority has also tracked the number of ships passing through.

“Obviously hindered a bit by that slow start, but we’re catching up,” Jayson Hron, the Director of Communications and Marketing for the Port Authority, said.

Each year, between 700 and 800 ships enter the port of Duluth. This year, there are several factors Hron points to for the dip.

“Primarily attributed to some of that lingering ice that we had from the late season cold,” he said, “and also some of the hiccups with the supply chain that still lingered from COVID.”

The port had the biggest jump in vessels arriving in August this year. 94 vessels passed under the Lift Bridge, the most since August 2019. The slow start has picked back up thanks to three consecutive months of strong arrivals.

Although there has been a steady flow of ships coming in, the amount of goods on those ships has decreased.

According to September’s Port of Duluth-Superior Marine Tonnage Report, 12,487,294 tons of iron ore came into the port as of September, compared to 14,309,030 tons at the same time last year. Just under a two-ton decrease.

Hron points out a new mineral has jumped up this year.

“One of the biggest movers actually in that other category is limestone, which has actually been our number three cargo by tonnage this season thus far,” Hron said.

Hron said the shipping season ends in mid-January and hopes that it will pick up before then.

“The gap has been closing for the last three or four months now,” he continued, “so hopefully by the end of the season if things continue well, we’ll see that gap closed even further.”