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Harsh Winter Bottles Up Cargo Traffic Early On Great Lakes

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Winter's proven to be tough on the Great Lakes shipping industry. Even before the polar vortex caused temps to plummet this week, ice buildup and mechanical issues have plagued traffic. Ideastream's Brian Bull reports:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 9:03 pm

There are 17 American companies that operate roughly 60 cargo ships on the Great Lakes. Roughly a third of those ships’ operations have been canceled prior to the end of normal cargo traffic that comes January 15th.

Glen Nekvasil, Vice-President of the Lake Carriers Association, says part of the reason is that the Coast Guard has had two of its seven icebreakers taken in for repairs, meaning traffic has been slowed due to more ice.

“A voyage that’s supposed to take 80 hours, may now take 200 hours," says Nekvasil. "And the boats, they’re ice-strengthened, but you don’t want to damage your assets.”

Nekvasil adds the recent deep freeze and gale warnings haven’t helped. He adds with more than 20 cargo ships canceling early, there will be a significant impact on inland manufacturing and commerce.

“When you cancel a cargo, it can mean as much as 60,000 tons of cargo. 60,000 tons of iron ore, for example, that would keep the blast furnaces here in Cleveland going on 4 to 5 days.”

The commercial cargo season will start again in March, beginning with iron ore and cement shipments.

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