For Fednav, 2018 was quite a year with respect to steel imports considering tariffs imposed by the United States.
The introduction of the 25% duty on steel imports brought about great uncertainty as regards to import tonnage volumes for FALLine, the company’s transatlantic general cargo liner service from Europe to St. Lawrence and Great Lakes ports.
Ultimately, inbound tonnage led by flat products for the automotive industry, followed by structural steels, wire rods, and plates remained steady as prices for American steel increased nearly offsetting the tariffs imposed. In addition, construction projects within Canada remained robust throughout the year which meant good volumes of beams.
Therefore, FALLine was able to offer the same high level of service to the steel and general cargo trades by offering over 50 sailings throughout the season from the main load ports of Antwerp and Brake with other European ports also called on inducement basis.
Outbound, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) announced that overall bulk tonnages transiting the seaway was the highest in over a decade.
Fednav’s fleet mirrored the Seaway’s assessment with the largest number of vessels sailing in and out of the Lakes in over a decade.
For 2019, it is too early to estimate what volumes of steel inbound shippers will have for FALLine’s 60th consecutive year of serving the Great Lakes. Some indications, however, point towards a season similar to 2018.
Again this year, FALLine offered monthly sailings throughout the winter to the St. Lawrence River ports of Trois-Rivières and Sorel. Fednav Direct, the company’s logistics service, continued to offer its customers year-round JIT deliveries from both River and Great Lakes ports.
As regards export tonnage, again it is early to say what 2019 will bring in terms of bulk exports. It is safe to say, however, that there are some of the best shippers in the world marketing US and Canadian grains, so demand for domestic canola looks to be much better than what was seen in 2018, and that there is a lot of high quality durum in North America that was not moved in 2018.
All in all, Fednav currently has no reason to believe 2019 will be any different from 2018.