May 17, 2020

Report shows Great Lakes shipping value

Supply Chain Digital
Great Lakes Shipping
St. Lawrence Shi
Freddie Pierce
2 min
Martin Associates study says Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada
A forgotten link to successful North American trade, the cargo lanes in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River are an extremely valuable commodity for...

A forgotten link to successful North American trade, the cargo lanes in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River are an extremely valuable commodity for supply chain and logistics managers. One report sought to find just how valuable Great Lakes shipping is, and the numbers are pretty staggering.

Cargo shipping through the waters supports 227,000 jobs and adds billions into the United States and Canadian economies, helping steelmaking, farming, construction and energy companies in the process. The Martin Associates study also says that shipping over water saves roughly $3.6 billion each year as opposed to freight forwarding options.

“This report bears out what we’ve long known – that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway is crucial to the U.S. economy,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the Wall Street Journal.

LaHood continued to say that shipping over water is “the single most fuel-efficient and cost-effective way to haul goods from one place to another.”

The industry as a whole employed 92,923 people as dockworkers or ship crew members, and generated an additional 66,005 jobs through business in the region. The report also credited procurement and purchasing jobs at marine terminals and ports with supporting another 67,905 positions.

 “We’re looking for a win-win situation – a healthy marine industry that supports jobs while minimizing its environmental footprint,” American Great Lakes Ports Association executive director Steve Fisher told the Wall Street Journal.


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According to the report, more than 160 million metric tons of cargo are transported over the network each year. The trade lanes extend 2,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to an extreme western Lake Superior port in Duluth, Minn.

Popular items traded on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway network include iron ore, coal, stone, salt, sugar and heavy machinery.

Among other things, the study found that ocean freight ships contribute far less to regional economies than regional ships trading on the Great Lakes Network.

“They enable our farmers to export grain and sell their products overseas,” Fisher said. “They’re essential to helping our manufacturers compete overseas.”

Great Lakes shipping has its opponents, however. Thom Cmar, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the report “extraordinarily one-sided.”

“It’s undeniable that shipping has a big economic footprint, but the better question is what are the alternatives and what are the investments that need to be made going forward to deal with the downsides of shipping,” Cmar said.

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Jun 21, 2021

Elon Musk's Boring Co. planning wider tunnels for freight

2 min
Elon Musk’s tunnelling firm plans underground freight tunnels with shipping containers moved on “battery-powered freight carriers”, according to reports

Elon Musk’s drilling outfit The Boring Company could be shifting its focus towards subterranean freight and logistics solutions, according to reports. 

A Boring Co. pitch deck seen and shared by Bloomberg depicts plans to construct wider tunnels designed to accommodate shipping containers. 

Founded by Tesla CEO Musk in 2016, the company initially stated its mission was to offer safer, faster point-to-point transport for people, particularly in cities plagued by traffic congestion. It also planned longer tunnels to ferry passengers between popular destinations across the US. 

The Boring Co. completed its first commercial project earlier this year in April. The 1.7m tunnel system is designed to move professionals between convention centres in Las Vegas using Tesla EVs. It says the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop can cut travel time between venues from 45 minutes to just two. 


Boring Co.'s new freight tunnels

The Boring Co.'s new tunnel designs would allow freight to be transported on purpose built platforms, labelled as “battery-powered freight carriers”. The document shows that, though the containers could technically fit within its current 12-foot tunnels, wider tunnels would be more efficient. Designs for a new tunnel, 21 feet in diameter, show that they can comfortably accommodate two containers side-by-side, with a one-foot gap between them.

The Boring Co.’s new drilling machine, dubbed Prufrock, can tunnel at a rate of one mile per week, which is six times faster than its previous machine, and is designed to ‘porpoise’ - mimicking the marine animal by ‘diving’ below ground and reemerging once the tunnel is complete. 

Tesla’s supply chain woes 

Tesla is facing its own supply chain and logistic issues. The EV manufacturer has raised the price of its vehicles, with CEO Musk confirming the incremental hike was a result of “major supply chain pressure”. Musk replied to a disgruntled Twitter user, confused as to why prices were rising while features were being removed from the cars, saying the “raw materials especially” were a big issue. 

Elon Musk Tweet

Car manufacturing continues to be one of the industries hit hardest by a global shortage in semiconductor chips. While China’s chip manufacturing levels hit an all-time high in May, and the US is proposing a 25% tax credit for chip manufacturers, demand still outstrips supply. Automakers including Volkswagen and Audi have again said they expect reduced vehicle output in the next quarter due to a lack of semiconductors, with more factory downtime likely

Top Image credit: The Boring Company / @boringcompany

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