The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 23, 2013

Drought, low water hurt lake shipping

ASHTABULA —  Harbors filled with sediment and sustained drought conditions in the Midwest continue to take their toll on the efficiency of the Great Lakes shipping industry.

The Lake Carriers’ Association is reporting U.S.-flag lakers carried 89.5 million tons of dry-bulk cargo last year, a decrease of 4.6 percent compared to 2011. The 2012 season also was 1.5 percent below the five-year average for the U.S. carriers.

Coal was a major player in pulling down the numbers. U.S. flag carriers moved 17.6 tons on the lakes last year, a decrease of 13.1 percent from the prior year’s tonnage. The decrease in coal shipments is due to much less coal moving from U.S. ports like Ashtabula and Toledo, to power plants in Canada, which is phasing out coal-burning power generation plants.

Long-term drought and poor harbor maintenance, the “dredging crisis,” are to blame for the decrease in other cargos. The Lake Carrier’s Association reports that shipments of limestone from U.S. ports fell 2.4 percent in 2012, when compared to 2011. At Canadian quarries, the decrease in loadings was 9 percent compared to the prior year. Falling water levels and the dredging crisis necessitate lighter cargo loads, which makes freighters less efficient and each trip more expensive.

The Transportation Institute notes one inch of lost capacity due to decreased water level results in a loss of 50 to 270 tons of capacity for ships that sail the lakes. A 1,000-foot freighter, capable of lifting 70,000 tons, has to sail about 8,000 tons light because harbor and channel depths are inadequate.

The term “Great Lakes dredging crisis” was coined in 2006 by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a shipping advocacy group. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved since then, and the droughts have caused even lower lake levels than existed when the alarm was first sounded. At least one commercial harbor, Dunkirk, N.Y., had to shut down in 2005 because the harbor was too shallow for ships. Meanwhile, Glen Nekvasil of the Lake Carriers Association estimates that 17 million cubic yards of sediment clog the 60 commercial ports the federal government maintains.

Text Only
Local News
Canoe Race and Ashtabula Easter Events
Good Friday Cross Walks and Easter Egg Hunts
Spring Comes Alive
Ashtabula Spring Cleaning
The Taping of the Teacher: A sticky Sitation
Saturday Fun in Ashtabula County March 22, 2014
American Red Cross Ashtabula County Heroes Breakfast
Rotary Club Dodge Ball Tournament
18th Annual Polar Bear Plunge at Geneva State Park
End of year weather extremes
Christmas 2013
Harpersfield Barn Fire
Route 11 Rescue Plymouth Township
Ashtabula Fire
House Ads
AP Video
NDN Video
Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down Rise of the Milkbots TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes "RHOA's" Dramatic Brawl High school, College Drug Ring Busted In Montgomery County High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Raw: Keflezighi, Jeptoo Win Boston Marathon Teen hitchhikes in wheel well of flight from California to Hawaii Lindsay Lohan's Jaw-Dropping Secret President Sends Message To Boston And Marathon Runners LA Pastor Attracts Churchgoers with Pot Lauren Stoner Shows Off Her Incredible Bikini Body