Lakes Water Levels on the Rise, but Not Full Loads

Color satellite image of the Great Lakes (Credit: NOAA)

The rise in Great Lakes water levels has yet to translate into full loads for the U.S.-flag freighters moving iron ore, coal, limestone, cement and other cargos. Vessels continue to routinely leave port with less than a full load on board.

The largest iron ore cargo moved by a U.S.-flag laker through the Soo Locks in June totaled 69,576 tons. The record iron ore cargo for the “Head-of-the-Lakes Trade” is 72,300 tons and was carried in 1997, a period of near record-high water levels.

The deepest draft ever recorded for a transit of the Poe Lock is 29’ 03″ in 1986. If a 1,000-foot-long U.S.-flag laker could transit the lock that deep today, the vessel would be carrying 72,727 tons.

Vessels in the coal trade continued to depart loading docks with capacity to spare. The largest coal cargo through the Soo Locks totaled 67,992 tons, nearly 5 percent less than the record of 70,903 tons.

Vessels in the short-haul trades below the Soo Locks likewise are still unable to maximize their carrying capacity. A river-class laker that delivered 13,000 tons of limestone to a dock along the Saginaw River was still 3,000 tons short of its rated capacity. A 14,000-ton cement cargo discharged in Detroit and Cleveland represented only 80 percent of the vessel’s rated capacity.

The rise in water levels has allowed vessels to carry larger cargos than a year ago,” said James H.I. Weakley, President of Lake Carriers’ Association.However, water levels will begin their seasonal decline in the fall, so the fact even more carrying capacity will be unusable makes the recent passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act even more important to the Great Lakes Navigation System.”

“That legislation designates the Lakes as a system in terms of dredging and increases spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Passage could not have come at a better time, for it is clear higher water levels cannot themselves restore the Great Lakes Navigation System to even functional, let alone project dimensions.”

“Only increased funding will end the dredging crisis on the Great Lakes. It was gratifying to see the House of Representatives add nearly $58 million to the Corps’ national budget yesterday. Surely some of those dollars will come back to the Lakes,” added Weakley.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates approximately 18 million cubic yards of sediment clog Great Lakes ports and waterways and pegs the cost of dredging that volume at more than $200 million. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the depository for a tax levied on cargo to pay for dredging, has a surplus of more than $8 billion.

Press Release, July 11, 2014

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3rd International Congress Hydraulic Engineering Structures and Dredging

Russia’s leading maritime industry Media Group PortNews (www.portnews.ru) holds a traditional annual Congress “Hydraulic Engineering Structures and Dredging” in Moscow. 

The two-day Congress includes the 7th International Forum of Dredging Companies and the 3rd Technical Conference “Modern Solutions for Hydraulic Engineering”.

Infrastructure development is among the real sources of Russia’s economy growth. Construction of port facilities and new hydraulic engineering structures on the country’s inland waterways constitute an essential part of all infrastructure projects. It is important to take into account the best international practices to implement these projects effectively.

The program of the Congress will be devoted to the latest technologies for dredging and hydraulic engineering works. Speakers and delegates will refer to real projects to discuss specifics features of dredging works, as well as dedicated fleet and equipment involved.

To learn more about event, please, contact the organizing committee: snitko@portnews.ru

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