Port of Duluth-Superior post highest general cargo throughput since 1986
The Port of Duluth-Superior posted a drop in throughput over 2022 with the project cargo segment being the season’s major highlight. The port noted that its throughput for the year 2022 ended 7.6 percent down when compared to the year 2021, and 7 percent below the five-year average.
Some 30.4 million short tons of cargo transited the port in 2022, including nearly 19 million tons of iron ore, which finished within 2.3 percent of the five-season average. Almost 970,000 tons of iron ore sailed from the port in January, which was the largest January iron ore float for Duluth-Superior since the Duluth Seaway Port Authority shifted to electronic record-keeping in 2003.
General cargo tonnage provided the season’s biggest highlight, much of it the high, wide and heavy ilk, such as, 260-foot wind turbine blades, a 125-ton Yankee dryer for ST Paper in West Duluth, and other huge industrial pieces that Duluth Cargo Connect received via ship or barge and then moved to sites throughout North America. That general cargo tonnage total more than quadrupled the five-season average, finishing at nearly 118,000 tons, the most for Duluth-Superior since 1986.
Coal and grain posted the season’s biggest declines, down 13 percent and 20.3 percent, respectively, compared to 2021. It was the port’s smallest grain throughput since 1890.
Even with the difficult season for grain, beet pulp pellets emerged as a highlight. Duluth-Superior exported 150,000 tons of beet pulp pellets this season, which was the most since 2014 and an 85 percent increase over last season.
“Grain is a very dynamic commodity in terms of supply, demand, pricing and routing, and the port faced a number of headwinds in 2022, including two years of tightening grain supplies worldwide, further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, a very strong dollar, extremely elevated transportation costs and competition from other countries’ less expensive wheat,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
“On the positive side, 2022 was a terrific season for general cargo tonnage, and while it doesn’t offset grain or coal in total tonnage, those general cargo shipments deliver outsized economic value per ton in comparison, and they also support development of regional industry and greener energy sources, so they represent a big win for our port and our region,” DeLuca.