June 9 - During the first nine weeks of the 2016 navigation season, a number of ships have delivered high-value project cargoes to ports in the Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway system.

Betty Sutton, administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, commented on the first nine weeks of the season: "Our longshoremen worked diligently to offload cargo ships delivering transformers bound for electric power companies, tanks for beer brewing companies, windmills for power generation and dockside cranes for offloading ships."

Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, added: "We've already handled heavy lift oil and gas refinery equipment for a project in Montana; a load of kaolin clay from Brazil to supply Minnesota paper mills; and a shipment of 62 m (203 ft) long wind turbine blades for a wind energy project in Iowa. Two additional ships are en route with tower sections and nacelles and hubs for that same project."

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor also had a busy start to the season, receiving shipments of European beer fermentation tanks, amongst other cargoes. "Since 2014, the port has handled over 80 beer tanks for craft breweries around the Midwest with most of those going to Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Chicago," said port director Rick Heimann.

David Gutheil, vice president maritime and logistics at the Port of Cleveland, informed that the gateway is currently lagging slightly behind 2015 tonnage numbers with regards to its non-containerised business, but the port is optimistic for the summer months.

"The Cleveland-Europe Express continues to attract new customers, as evidenced by our recent partnership announcement with Lubrizol for export container business to Europe. We also moved our first cargo to the country of Georgia, a 100-tonne transformer from Siemens Energy in Mt. Vernon, Ohio," he continued.

Cleveland has also made recent investments, increasing capacity with the commissioning of two new Liebherr mobile harbour cranes and a new warehouse, which will be ready for use later this month.

Federal Marine Terminals has also ordered a 275-tonne capacity Kobelco crawler crane, which is expected to arrive at the Port of Cleveland in September and is intended to increase the terminal's ability to handle large and complex project cargoes.

The St Lawrence Seaway has handled 6.5 million tonnes of cargo during the period from March 21 to May 31, 2016 - a 4.15 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2015. General cargo volumes were up 113 percent in the reporting period.