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US Steel's Gary sheet mill receives iron ore shipments via i

2014-04-27 22:42 View:

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US Steel's Gary sheet mill receives iron ore shipments via icy Great Lakes   Apr 09,2014 Platts The first vessels of 2014 carrying iron ore to the US Steel Gary sheet mill in Indiana arrived this week, but the mill is still operating at limited capacity, the company said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for US Steel said four boats carrying ore arrived early this week at USS Gary -- the first from the company's Great Lakes Works in Ecorse, Michigan, which was idled by a roof collapse two weeks ago. Two arrived from Duluth, Minnesota, Tuesday morning, and a fourth from the idled Michigan mill is due shortly.

US Steel curtailed production at its Gary Works becaingest of "unforeseen and unprecedented ice conditions on the Great Lakes that [are] delaying the transportation of critical raw materials," an April 2 letter to customers said.

Gary is US Steel's largest mill, with annual crude steelmaking capability of 7.5 million st, US Steel's website said.

Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers' Association, said Tuesday the two boats from Duluth are the first ore carriers to deliver raw materials to steel mills via Lake Superior this year.

"They got going March 26, loaded in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and are getting to Gary today. That tells you how tough the ice is out there," he said. The voyage from Two Harbors to Gary would take two and a half days under normal circumstances.

Nekvasil said spring weather is helping to increase mobility on the lakes after the worst winter since 1993-1994, but there are still vessels in the queue and more ice-related delays are expected.

The Coast Guard began ice breaking on December 6 -- the earliest on record. The ice in the Great Lakes, which was more than four feet thick at some points, has exceeded the capability of the Coast Guard's nine ice breakers, Nekvasil said.

On April 1, there were 23 US-flag vessels in service on the Great Lakes, compared with 38 on April 1, 2013, and 40 on April 1, 2012.

"Frankly, although 23 vessels were 'in service,' they didn't get very far," Nekvasil said. The first convoy across Lake Superior took nine days -- a trip that would take 30 hours without ice impeding delivery.

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