Great Lakes shipping season begins with delays
The start of the Great Lakes shipping season has not come without delays.
Over a dozen vessels have been delayed in White Fish Bay and Lake Superior due to high winds and ice since the Soo Locks opened on March 25 to mark the start of the season.
Ice breakers and tugs from the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards were deployed to assist the vessels. Some ships were delayed for 60 hours.
Over 90% of the nation’s iron ore is shipped through the Great Lakes supporting hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs
Eric Peace, Vice President of the Lake Carriers’ Association, said the start of the shipping season is crucial for manufacturing plants
“Because what we have is stockpiles are running low at the steel mills," said Peace. "So, they've been able to maintain since January 15 with the stockpiles that they have but those are running low to the point where they don't have enough stockpile anymore and they need to be resupplied.”
Peace mentioned that when stockpiles diminish the consequences and be devastating for the mills.
“And if they get too low, then steel mills are forced to shut down one of their blast furnaces," said Peace. "When you shut them down, it can take up to a year to bring the blast furnace back up online.”
The U.S. Coast Guard told WCMU that 50 mile per hour winds are the primary cause of delays and vessels stop and wait for the wind conditions to improve.
While the ships wait, the winds can blow more ice chunks against the ships and create a more difficult path. Tugs and ice breaker then come to help restore movement.
The U.S. Coast Guard said that deploying more ice breakers into the Great Lakes will not stop mother nature and the weather appears to be improving.
Overall ship traffic to start the season is down through the Soo Locks when compared to previous years.