Congress plans to fund Great Lakes icebreaker


September 19 — Hopes of building a state-of-the-art, $ 350 million Great Lakes heavy icebreaker for the United States Coast Guard have been withdrawn from committee and will be voted on by the entire United States House of Representatives in the part of President Biden’s $ 3.5. trillion reconciliation bills.

“The defensive capabilities, manufacturing industries and economic vitality of our country depend on the ability of ships to navigate reliably, safely and efficiently the more than 2,000 miles of shipping lanes of the Great Lakes region,” said said US representative Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said.

She was one of four co-chairs of the bipartisan House Great Lakes task force that co-signed a July 28 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, calling on the government to fund a new icebreaker. US Representative Debbie Dingell (D., Michigan), US Representative David Joyce (R., Ohio) and US Representative Bill Huizenga (R., Michigan) also signed this letter.

The letter states that “climate change is leading to fluctuating lake levels, more frequent winters with thick ice cover and higher intensity and frequency of extreme storms.”

“These conditions impact the thickness of the ice and create unpredictable ice flows,” the letter says. “Ice cover and severe storms are shutting down critical waterways in the region, blocking shipping traffic. ”

Currently, the Great Lakes District of the Coast Guard only commands one heavy icebreaker, the USCGC Mackinaw. A second “will double the Coast Guard’s ability to clean the Great Lakes shipping lanes of ice,” Ms. Kaptur’s office said.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has been pushing for an additional icebreaker for years, as have the Lake Carriers Association, the American Great Lakes Ports Association and other industry groups, said Joe Cappel, vice-president. president of the commercial development of the port authority.

Meanwhile, the latest statistics show a continued upward movement in Great Lakes shipping this year.

The 20.7 million metric tonnes of cargo shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway since the opening of the Seaway in 2021 from March 22 to August 31 represents an increase of 5.2% over the same period in 2020.

Iron ore, steel and cement are among the raw materials on the rise, according to the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership, a coalition of US and Canadian maritime organizations.

Iron ore exports to high-demand countries such as China, Japan and South Korea saw a 29% increase in tonnage compared to the same months of 2020, said Craig H. Middlebrook, deputy administrator of Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp.

Cereal exports to Europe, South America and Asia are expected to be high as the fall harvest approaches, especially with corn and soybean yields up from 2020, a he declared.

Mr. Cappel noted that the port of Toledo is home to “several very active grain terminals, including one of the largest flour mills in the world operated by Mondelez”.

He said freight passing through the port of Toledo exceeded 2020 totals by more than 25%, exceeding 6 million tonnes through August for the first time since 2011.

Mr Cappel attributed much of this to the new Toledo direct reduction plant of Cleveland-Cliffs, formerly known as the Cleveland-Cliffs HBI.

He said the iron ore produced by this facility “has really helped take the port to the next level.”

“It’s exciting to think about the potential of this port as we look to the future,” said Mr. Cappel.

The Chamber of Maritime Commerce released the same figures in a separate press release, saying shipments of iron ore, steel, cement and stone “have surged in the region.”

“The ships and ports of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence specialize in the efficient transportation of the metals and minerals that are now fueling manufacturing and economic recovery in North America,” said Bruce Burrows, president and chief executive officer. management of the Chamber of Maritime Commerce. “We expect this increase in materials across our trade corridor to continue in the coming months.”

First published on September 19, 2021 at 9:12 a.m.

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