According to figures recently released by the Rocky River, OH-based Lakes Carriers' Association, U.S.-flag ships operating on the Great Lakes saw a 7 percent decline in cargo tonnage volumes moved in March of this year compared with March of 2012, but the total is slightly ahead of the five-year average of 2.1 million tons.
Great Lakes freighters handled slightly less than 2.2 million tons of cargo last month according to cargo tonnage statistics released by the Association.
So far in 2012, U.S. flag Great Lakes vessels have transported 5.2 million tons of a cargo, roughly 19 percent less than the figure for the same time last year, according to the report.
Iron ore cargoes were down by 13.4 percent and coal tonnage declined by more than 50 percent.
One piece of good news indicated that limestone tonnages were 61 percent ahead of last year’s figures.
Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced yesterday that the committee would convene a special panel tasked with examining the current state of freight transportation in the United States and how and improved freight transportation system can strengthen the U.S. economy.
The full committee’s Vice Chairman, Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), will chair the “Panel on 21stCentury Freight Transportation.” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will serve as the panel’s ranking member. By the rules of the Committee adopted at the beginning of the Congress, the special panel will serve for a period of six months, beginning with its first scheduled hearing on April 24, 2013.
The Republican members of the panel are: Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr., TN, Chairman; Rep. Gary Miller, CA; Rep. Rick Crawford, AR; Rep. Richard Hanna, NY; Rep. Daniel Webster, FL; Rep. Markwayne Mullin, OK
The Democratic members of the panel are: Rep. Jerrold Nadler, NY, Ranking Member; Rep. Corrine Brown, FL; Rep. Daniel Lipinski, IL; Rep. Albio Sires, NJ; Rep. Janice Hahn, CA
“Given that freight transportation cuts across many modes, this panel will play a critical role in providing recommendations on how to improve the efficient movement of goods between highways, ports, inland waterways, railroads, air carriers, and pipelines,” said Rep. Shuster. “I am confident Chairman Duncan and the members of the panel will provide the Committee with valuable insights for the improvement of freight transportation and our Nation’s economy.”
“Almost all manner of goods sold or produced in this country take a ride on our rails, pass through our ports, wind down our waterways, or travel our highways,” said the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Ranking Member, Rep. Rahall. “The smooth movement of cargo across all these modes of transportation is essential in keeping our economy moving which is why this panel’s task of improving the efficiency of our interconnected freight network takes on such importance.”
“In the past, the conversation about freight transportation and goods movement has focused only on one specific mode of transportation or another,” said Rep. Duncan, the new panel’s chairman. “But freight doesn’t move just by ship, or by rail car, or by truck. Chances are the goods you buy at the store got on the shelves thanks to all those methods of transportation. Bottlenecks during any leg of that journey from the manufacturer to the market drive up costs. That’s why improving the flow of freight across all modes of transportation is so critical to a healthy economy.”
“The movement of freight is one of the most critical transportation questions for the 21stcentury,” said Rep. Nadler. “How we prioritize, invest, and develop freight infrastructure will have considerable bearing on how our economy grows, how we compete on the world stage, and how we create a sustainable and environmentally clean future at home. I look forward to working with Chairman Duncan and my other colleagues on this important panel to give freight movement the attention it deserves.”
According to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, grain export inspections at U.S. Great Lakes ports jumped off to a powerful start compared to levels recorded last year at this time.
Wheat export inspection tonnages at U.S. Great Lakes ports are currently 407 percent greater than they were at the same time in 2012. Similarly, soybean export inspection tonnages at U.S. Great Lakes ports are running 54 percent higher than they were last year at this time. No corn has been inspected for export through a Great Lakes port yet this year which is the same as the situation that existed in March and April of 2012.
Higher snow cover levels and soil moisture content in muc of the Upper Plains and Midwestern grain fields have led to widespread optimism about the potential for a strong U.S. grain harvest this year. The grain harvest levels may rise far above those of last year's harvest which was hampered by severe drought conditions across much of the nation.
A concurrent influx of steel from European mills struggling to sell off inventories due to the economic slump in the Eurozone and low ocean vessel freight rates may make U.S. boost grain export shipments through the Great Lakes-Seaway System this year.