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More than 10% rebound foreseen on Seaway

2010-03-16

Traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway, which had a disastrous year during the recession in 2009, could recover more strongly in 2010 than foreseen just a few months ago, thanks to a rebounding steel industry in North America. In an interview with Maritime Magazine, Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, stated: "We are projecting a 10.7% increase driven by higher demand for steel as it relates to iron ore and coal. It also looks good for project cargo in the latter half."

The 2010 season opens on March 25. Last year, Seaway cargo fell by 25% to 30.7 million tonnes from 40.8 million tonnes in 2008, with notably iron ore plunging by 45% to under 7 million tonnes. It was the lowest throughput on the waterway since 1961.

But Mr. Hodgson noted that demand for iron ore began showing signs of recovery since late in 2009 - in particular from the US Steel and Arcelor-Mittal steel plants in Hamilton. He also indicated that grain shipping activity would be starting strongly in the first few months of the 2010 season.

Similar views were expressed by several shipping executives.

"The opening looks quite good with steel coming in and grain going out," said Paul Pathy, Executive VP of Fednav Ltd., largest ocean-going user of the Seaway. "We will keep our fingers crossed for the rest of the year."

"The indicators are pointing to recovery," said Wayne Smith, Senior VP Commercial, Algoma Central Corporation. "Iron ore is approaching more normal levels, though there is some lag in certain industries we cover like aggregates and cement."

"In general, volumes will be definitely higher than last year," said Tom Brodeur, VP Marketing for Canada Steamship Lines.

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