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Canadians believe they can compete with Gulf Coast ports.
Montana coal exporters and Great Lakes maritime interests are looking forward to the end of the recession in Western Europe to create the right conditions for pumping new life into an inexpensive shipping route through the heart of North America.
The route may prove cheap enough to be a workable alternative to the Mississippi River route now taken by most exports out of the rich coal fields of the Powder River Basin.
Canada Steamship Lines said it proved the workability of the idea earlier this year when it moved 60,000 tons of coal from a terminal on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior via the St. Lawrence Seaway to the north coast of Spain.
Bruce McLeod, marketing manager for Canada Steamship, said the company was able to match the delivered price per ton (including rail freight) charged by operators using Mississippi River barges to carry the coal to the Gulf of Mexico where it is loaded on large ocean-going coal ships.
McLeod said he was proud of the effort made by his company and several independent ship brokers in New York agreed that it was an unusual event.
Generally speaking, the ocean freight cost of moving coal over the Mississippi route is about $5 less per ton than shipments from the Great Lakes, they said.
Largely for that reason, a million tons of Powder River Basin coal is exported via the Mississippi each year but only 90,000 tons have been exported over the Seaway in the last three years.
Lost Contract. Numerous sources agree that the Seaway suffers from several severe disadvantages in the effort to boost the volume of export cargoes moving through the waterway.
Those disadvantages came into play last year when Canada Steamship, in conjunction with other transport interests, bid on a three-year …