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Grain shipping traffic increases on Lake Ontario due to Ukraine war

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Harvest

Shipping traffic through ports along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario has already increased significantly since last year.

The St. Lawrence Seaway connects the Atlantic and the Great Lakes passing Montreal Ogdensburg, and Massena on the way to Lake Ontario. One reason for the jump is the war in Ukraine.

The war has stopped that country’s export of grains like soybeans and corn.

Kevin O’Malley says it’s having a big impact on the international grain markets. He works for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation which operates the U.S. side of the Seaway.

"Their markets principally in North Africa and Europe, are now being served by other markets, including the St. Lawrence Seaway," O'Malley said.

The Seaway opened in March after the ice melted. By the end of April, the port of Oswego alone moved 18 thousand tons of soybeans to Europe. To put that in perspective, O’Malley explained that the average seaway ship can move up to 30 thousand tons of cargo.

"The cargo on board that ship is equivalent to over 300 rail cars or nearly 1000 trucks on the road," he said.

O’Malley said the grain is coming from the Midwest, particularly Ohio. But, he said it’s not just grain exports that are driving the surge in port traffic. Renewable energy equipment is on the rise, too.

"Its fastest-growing commodity has been equipment related to wind energy, moving in both directions both import and export," he said.

According to O’Malley, the Oswego and Ogdensburg ports have already received shipments of wind turbine parts. He said that’s a sign that New York is becoming a major importer of renewable energy materials.

Overall, O’Malley said St. Lawrence Seaway exports almost doubled compared to this time last year. He said there’s more to come because the busiest time for grain exports is near the end of the year.

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