Great Lakes iron boats had strong 2017

Jan 11, 2018

The Tim S. Dool exits the Soo Locks with a load of iron ore in May 2016.
Credit David Cassleman

The Great Lakes iron ore trade had its best year since 2012. 

Freighters transported more than 60 million tons of iron ore from Great Lakes ports in 2017. That’s an increase of 10 percent compared to 2016, according to data released by the Lake Carriers’ Association on Wednesday. 

Joe Cappel – vice president of business development with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority – says the increase is a good sign for the economy.

“I think in general when iron ore volumes are up at the Port of Toledo or across the Great Lakes that means that the manufacturing economy is doing better,” Cappel says. “Automotive, appliances, machinery – things of that nature.”

Iron ore is mined in Minnesota and in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Ships carry ore to the steel mills that dot the lower Great Lakes. 

Iron ore had a strong 2017, even with the closure of the Empire Mine – south of Marquette – in 2016. 

Shipments of limestone on the Great Lakes were also higher in 2017.