Oats, cement, and modular housing notable shipping season highlights for Duluth Seaway Port Authority
Duluth Seaway Port Authority
Outdoor News

Oats, cement, and modular housing notable shipping season highlights for Duluth Seaway Port Authority

It has been a notable shipping season at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. 

With less than a week remaining until intra-lake shipping on the Great Lakes ends with the closure of the Soo Locks on Jan. 15, the port authority has numerous achievements to celebrate this season.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority experienced the longest international traffic season in the port’s history, for a total of 277 days. The earliest oceangoing arrival in port history – the Federal Dart,  carrying cementarrived on Mar. 28, 2023, and the Nordika Desgagnes, carrying beet pulp pellets bound for Irelanddeparted on Dec. 29, 2023. 

In addition, total maritime tonnage is 4 percent ahead of the 2022-23 shipping season and within 1 percent of the five-year average. 

As of Nov. 2023, iron ore, the leading commodity traveling through the Duluth port, was tracking 13.5 percent ahead of last year’s pace and 11.5 percent ahead of the five-year average. The port of Duluth-Superior transports approximately 20 million tons of iron ore each shipping season.

“It’s been a good season so far through Nov. 30, 2023,” said Jayson Hron, the director of communication and marketing for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “We’re still in the midst of it, hoping for a fantastic finish to the season.”

Each year, on average, the Duluth port reaches a benchmark of approximately 30-35 million short tons. Given the shipping season so far, Hron said, “I would say it’s very likely that the total tonnage will either reach or surpass that total this season.” 

Grain, generally durum and spring wheat, is another leading commodity moving through the port each season. However, a new grain made an interesting appearance during the 2023-24 shipping season, Hron said. 

“I wouldn’t want to say it’s like unprecedented, but we haven’t had a lot of oats moving through the Port of Duluth-Superior in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “It was fun to see that type of grain come back on the docket if you will.”

Hron said factors such as the strength of the U.S. dollar and the price of grain on the global scale significantly influence grain and other commodities moving through the port. “It’s been a tough couple of years for grain through this port. But this year, we’ve seen a bit of an uptick,” he said. 

As of Nov. 30, grain was up 3 percent from the previous shipping season. “Hopefully, a harbinger of good things for the future on the grain front,” Hron said. 

While a wide variety of commodities and cargo move through the port, in addition to oats, Hron said there have been a few other interesting noticeable trends during the season. 

The port authority experienced an increase in cement and modular housing. While some of the cement will remain in the Midwest for infrastructure projects, a portion entering the port was distributed into Alberta, Canada, for infrastructure projects. “So cement obviously has been a big mover this year,” Hron said. 

Modular housing arrived at the port this season to be transported to Quebec, Canada, where it was then transported onto another ship that was brought to the Canadian Arctic. “So definitely touching a large part of North America and the world as a whole with our import and export activities through this port,” said Horn. 

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Jayson Hron, the director of Communication and Marketing at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, to reflect on the highlights of the 2023-24 shipping season. Audio from the interview is below.