Steelmaker Calls For More Lakes Dredging So Nation Can Reinvest in American Jobs

TOLEDO, OH---America's largest integrated steelmaker has urged lawmakers to increase dredging on the Great Lakes as a way to reinvest in and retain quality jobs in America. Daniel J. Cornillie, Manager - Marine & Raw Materials Logistics for ArcelorMittal USA - Indiana Harbor, noted that because of the dredging crisis, it now takes a vessel that supplies iron ore to Indiana Harbor six trips to deliver what it did in five 20 years ago. "This math is being repeated across the U.S.-Flag Lakes fleet that delivered over 100 million tons last year. The constraint is the draft available, and the culprit is deferred dredging in the context of low Lake levels. With the current Great Lakes fleet at full utilization, this is forcing cargo to other modes of transportation at a multiple of fuel consumption."

Cornillie, speaking before the 13th Annual Informational Briefing for the Great Lakes delegation in Washington hosted by Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, stressed that Great Lakes shipping "links the iron ore and stone from the north with the coal to the south. These are steelmaking's primary inputs. It requires approximately 26 million tons per year of Lake-delivered raw materials to sustain ArcelorMittal's production and jobs at its U.S. Lakes mills. That is approximately 3,000 tons of material per hour, 24/7. Without Great Lakes shipping to deliver these materials, these mills would not be here."

Decades of inadequate funding for dredging have produced a backlog of 18 million cubic yards of sediment that must be removed system-wide. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost more than $230 million to restore the Great Lakes navigation system to project dimensions.

Cornillie noted that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which pays for dredging using taxes collected on waterborne commerce, has a surplus of more than $4 billion, and the cost of allowing vessels to again carry full loads "would be less than that recently spent on reconfiguring one freeway intersection south of Chicago."

Cornillie also focused on the environmental benefits of Great Lakes shipping. "In the current and future environment of energy conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions the marine mode stands apart. Lakes ships use only one-third to one-fifth of a horsepower per ton. If this ratio held true on the highway, you could move a semi with a lawnmower engine."

Cornillie further highlighted the employment potential that will result from increased dredging. "After years of industry rationalization, the average age of employees in these mills is in the 50s. Over the next ten years this workforce will retire, opening jobs for today's youth. This turnover has already started to a significant degree, and will accelerate - if we reinvest in the Lakes transportation system that enabled this job creation in the first place."

At the Briefing, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force also presented its Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award to Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH). Rep. Tubbs Jones represents the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. The city is home to an ArcelorMittal mill that is also suffering from the dredging crisis. "The vessels that deliver iron ore and stone up the twisting Cuyahoga River that is the lifeline of our Cleveland Works are consistently losing two feet of loaded draft to the dredging crisis," Cornillie said. "The 2,600 net tons of raw materials this leaves behind each trip would have supported over four hours of production for the 1,600 employees at the mill."

Great Lakes Maritime Task Force was founded in Toledo, Ohio, in 1992 to promote domestic and international Great Lakes shipping. It is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-Flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, terminal operators, cargo shippers, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. In addition to restoring adequate funding for dredging of Great Lakes ports and waterways, its goals include construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; preserving the domestic steelmaking infrastructure; protecting the nation's cabotage laws; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade; and opposing exports and increased diversions of Great Lakes water.

Glen G. Nekvasil
Secretary, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force
info@glmtf.org