Salt picks up slack from coal, iron ore on St. Lawrence Seaway

High demand pushed 1.4 million tonnes of road salt through the St. Lawrence Seaway between April 2 and July 31. That figure represents a 3% rise from 2014, which was an exceptional year for salt, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. (SLSMC).

Most salt is mined from K+S Group’s Windsor salt mine in Ontario. “Ships are already carrying road salt from Windsor to cities and towns all over Canada and the U.S., which are stockpiling now in preparation for the winter months ahead,” Windsor Port Authority CEO David Cree said.

At the Port of Johnstown, general manager Robert Dalley said that “total cargo shipments are up 21% this season compared to the same time frame last year, and this is mostly due to an increase in road salt coming from mines in Ontario and Quebec.”

U.S. construction activity has also boosted shipments of other commodities, including cement (up 11% ), gypsum (35%) and coking coal (23%), according to a statement from the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

On the whole, however, cargo tonnage on the seaway in the period is down 7% to 14.5 million tonnes, with low prices sinking iron ore shipments by 8% and coal by 38%.

SLSMC director of market development Bruce Hodgson expects road salt will be a “hot commodity” leading up to 2016. “The more buoyant U.S. economy is creating demand for other products such as construction materials and steelmaking materials,” he adds. “However, weaker global conditions and demand for some of the seaway’s key cargoes — iron ore and coal — are reflected in our numbers.”


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