Aluminum shipments to Oswego to increase

Port of Oswego estimates more than 120,000 metric tons will arrive from Quebec and Ontario to be sent to Novelis Inc. plant in Oswego.  (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)
Port of Oswego estimates more than 120,000 metric tons will arrive from Quebec and Ontario to be sent to Novelis Inc. plant in Oswego. (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)

The Port of Oswego has seen record levels of aluminum shipments so far this year and shipments between the port and the St. Lawrence Seaway are expected to increase by 30 percent this year, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce, a bi-national association that represents approximately 150 marine industry stakeholders.

The Port of Oswego estimates that more than 120,000 metric tons of aluminum will be delivered to the port in 2014, due to high demand from aluminum sheet manufacturers catering to the automotive industry. The aluminum is shipped by barge from the Aluminerie Alouette facility in Sept-Iles, Quebec, the largest aluminum smelter in the Americas.

“The bi-national nature of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway system makes it a natural conduit for cross-border trade,” said Chamber of Marine Commerce President Stephen Brooks. “Ships carry more than 36 million metric tons of commodities like aluminum, iron ore, salt and construction materials over this waterway every year between the two countries.”

The aluminum is being used by Novelis Inc., an aluminum sheet manufacturing corporation headquartered in Atlanta, GA. The Novelis facilities in Oswego completed a $200 million expansion in October 2013 that added two new automotive finishing production lines and increased the company’s capacity to produce aluminum sheet for the automotive industry by 240,000 tons. Novelis is currently constructing a third line to meet rapidly growing demand by auto manufacturers, such as the latest model of Ford F-150s, which manufacturers are putting more aluminum in to lighten their weight to better the vehicle’s fuel economy.

“We are enjoying record levels of aluminum shipments through the port and expect this to rise even further in 2015 as Novelis’ additional aluminum rolling capacity comes on line,” said Zelko Kirincich, executive director of the Port of Oswego. “This is a great example of how the port and marine shipping on the Great Lakes-Seaway system support the success of local manufacturers.”

The Port of Oswego expects aluminum shipments from Canada to increase even more in 2015 as the new line at Novelis begins production. According to Aluminerie Alouette, the company expects to ship close to 500,000 metric tons of primary aluminum to ports in Oswego and national metropolis ports including Toledo, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan on barges over the next three years.

“We can ship our aluminum by water directly to U.S. customers in the Great Lakes, which is still the heart of North American manufacturing,” said Jean-Pierre Bérubé, cast house, energy and metal shipping manager at Aluminerie Alouette. “Using the Blue Highway helps us to reduce our environmental impact and lower our transportation costs, which is an important part of the financial equation of exporting and helps us to lower the prices for customers.”

According to the Chamber of Marine Commerce, the marine industry between the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway generates $35 billion in business revenues and supports 227,000 jobs in the United States and Canada.

“We have witnessed a shift with a greater percentage of aluminum going to Oswego,” said John Grech, vice president of business development and transportation for McKeil Marine, the company that owns the barges the aluminum will be shipped on over the next few years. “We will continue to service our customers’ requirements for the balance of the 2014 shipping season.”