Great Lakes coal shipments down

By KBJR News 1

October 24, 2013 Updated Oct 24, 2013 at 4:15 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Coal has been one of the largest exports in the Northland for decades, but recent energy saving measures and stricter air pollution policies across the United States have taken a toll on coal exports.

The Great Lakes has seen a 13% decrease from a year ago, forcing ports across the states to adapt to the changes.

"What's happened in recent years is as Ontario, as a province of Canada, has moved towards renewable energy, they've been cutting their orders for coal," said Adele Yorde of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

Those cuts could have had a devastating economic impact on the Duluth-Superior port but a new market has opened up easing the hit.

While the demand for coal has gone down in the States it has increased in Europe.

"Midwest Energy is using the Great Lakes Seaway system to actually export that coal to Spain, the Netherlands, and other places in Europe," said Yorde.

Shipping companies in the area have decided to utilize the Canadian ports that were once the coal's destination as the new middle-man for overseas shipping... strengthening Duluth's reputation as an international port.

"Europe is very receptive to low sulfur coal," said Yorde.

Yorde says it's exciting to see our inland port used as a northern corridor to Europe.

"It bodes well for some future developments for export business," she said.

Port Trade Development Director, Ron Johnson, says Europe is also moving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and says changing from Europe's high sulfur coal to the low sulfur of Western coal is a step in the right direction.

"They're burning a lot of wood pellets along with their existing supplies of coal. The thing about European coal, it's not low-sulfur coal like we have available here," said Johnson.

Johnson says this is a market that could be around for quite a while.

"Europe has a need and they were able to put together a sale, and the freight rates were okay and competitive, and so they started shipping coal to Europe last year and then it's increased this year," said Johnson.

Yorde says future coal shipments are dependent on a number of factors including stable freight rates, prevailing international attitudes toward Greenhouse gasses, and the United State's ever changing energy policies.

Elsa Robins