INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard crews kept up their battle Monday to clear pathways for vessels hauling vital raw materials on the ice-clogged Great Lakes, where a shipping logjam forced a weeklong shutdown of the nation’s largest steel factory.
Traffic remained largely at a standstill after a winter that produced some of the heaviest ice on record across the five inland seas, where more than half the surface area remained solid this week. Icebreaking ships slogging across Lake Superior were still encountering ice layers 2 to 3 feet thick. In some areas, wind and wave action created walls of ice up to 14 feet high.
United States Steel Corp.’s plant in Gary had resumed limited operations after receiving a shipment over the weekend of iron ore from a company mill near Detroit, which was sending one additional load, spokeswoman Courtney Boone said. Two ships were scheduled to arrive today with ore from mines in northern Minnesota following a two-week voyage across Lake Superior, which ordinarily would take three days.
The Gary Works mill produces steel for industries such as construction and auto manufacturing. Production resumed at one of the mill’s three furnaces after Sunday’s shipment was received, Boone said. The Gary Works is capable of producing 7.5 million tons of steel per year.
U.S. Steel was able to operate off stockpiles for some time before the ice began affecting production, Boone said.