Five U.S. Great Lakes ports receive steel shipments in October, outbound grain remains high

The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership today announced the tonnage report for traffic through the St. Lawrence Seaway System through October, 2022. The report indicates that the Seaway System remains a reliable supply chain for essential commodities like steel and agricultural products.

“The high number of steel shipments through the Seaway System last month is the latest example of how this reliable supply chain directly benefits the North American economy,” said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, recently appointed Administrator of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “The steel that Great Lakes ports are moving continues to uplift the U.S. manufacturing sector and provide quality jobs in the industry.”

During October, the U.S. Great Lakes ports that received steel shipments included Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Burns Harbor. Throughout the 2022 shipping season, the Seaway System has also moved 934,000 metric tons of U.S. grain products to countries around the globe to-date, a nearly 25 percent increase compared to the same period in 2021. It is estimated that U.S. Great Lakes ports traded with at least 18 countries during October, up from 15 in September.

“Agricultural commodities farmed in the Great Lakes states are some of the highest quality in the world,” added Administrator Tindall-Schlicht. “The Seaway System has long served as an important shipping corridor for exporting grain given global high demand, and that trend has well continued thus far in 2022.”

Below are the key performance indicators and commodity trackers comparing tonnage numbers through October 2022 to the same period of 2021.

2022 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Key Performance Indicators**
 20212022Change (+/-)
Total Transits*




Total Cargo*

29,051,000 mt

27,556,000 mt

*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic

**All data is compared year-over-year (2021: Shipments from April 1 to Oct. 31 2021) (2022: Shipments from March 22 to Oct. 31 2022)

2022 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Key Commodity Trackers***
 20212022Change (+/-)**
U.S Grain

750,000 mt

934,000 mt

+24.67 %


1,193,000 mt

1,407,000 mt



327,000 mt

946,000 mt



1,894,000 mt

2,317,000 mt


Petroleum Products*

1,439,000 mt

1,970,000 mt


Other General Cargo

61,000 mt

180,000 mt


*Combined U.S. and Canadian traffic

**Percentages rounded to nearest tenth

***All data is compared year-over-year (2021: Shipments from April 1 to Oct. 31, 2021) (2022: Shipments from March 22 to Oct. 31 2022)

October highlights from American Great Lakes ports

Lake Erie

Through October, the Port of Toledo’s tonnage exceeded 9.5 million tons for the season, a 5.5% increase over the same period in 2021.

“Grain, iron ore, coal, and general cargo are all exceeding last year’s pace,” said Joseph Cappel, Vice President of Business Development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.“It’s great to see a parade of lakers and ocean vessels sailing up the Maumee River through downtown Toledo this time of year to load grain at The Andersons and ADM. We also have a lot of activity at the mouth of the river where coal, ore, aluminum, steel, and bulk products are handled at CSX and Midwest Terminals.”

The Port of Toledo has 13 active marine terminals and a full-service shipyard along a stretch of the Maumee River that spans seven nautical miles from the I-75 bridge to Maumee Bay at the western basin of Lake Erie.

In addition to being a leading destination on the Great Lakes for steel shipments, the Port of Cleveland has also seen an uptick in inbound tin plate and container shipments. Tin plate is commonly used in food and beverage cans.

“From steel shipments that power midwestern manufacturing to container shipments that meet everyday consumer demand, the Port of Cleveland is delivering tangible benefits to the region,” said William D. Friedman, CEO and President of the Port of Cleveland. “The high activity at our docks through October is the latest indication of the strong 2022 we’re having.”

Lake Superior

More than 3.1 million short tons of maritime cargo transited the Port of Duluth-Superior in October 2022, lifting season-to-date tonnage past 23.4 million. Led by shipments of wind energy cargo, including the longest blades ever moved through Duluth (260 feet), and massive industrial pieces (among them, a 125-ton Yankee dryer for Duluth’s ST Paper facility), general cargo tonnage neared 24,000 tons for the month of October and 96,000 tons for the season.

“It’s been a very strong year for general cargo shipments, which feature outsized economic value per ton in comparison to bulk cargo, and also help support development of industry and greener energy sources,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “That’s been a silver lining in an otherwise below-average tonnage year. It’s also been a strong season for limestone, salt and cement deliveries to the port.”

Lake Michigan

Chicago’s Illinois International Port District was another leading destination for steel shipments during October. “The productive year we’ve been having in Chicago continued in October,” said Erik Varela, executive director of the IIPD. “I’m particularly proud of the role that our port district is playing to ensure that Lake Michigan is a reliable shipping destination for key cargoes like steel and lumber.”