Great Lakes economies didn’t need this setback

While a recent story in The News focused on some economic problems for the Great Lakes shipping industry, what wasn’t so evident, yet probably is every bit as real, is that the story also portends problems for Great Lakes state economies, as well.

Certainly, COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. While its threat to health is real, just as devastating has been its impact on our national economy. And, in the case of Great Lakes shipping, that threat is an international one, as well.

In previous years, it would be unheard of for as many Great Lakes boats to have been removed from service already in a shipping season that normally would be enjoying its heydays right about now.

But, as reported last week in this newspaper, at least a dozen Great Lakes freighters have been removed from service as of last weekend.

While some of the displaced crews from those laid-up ships are filling in during vacations on operating boats, many other men and women have been left without work. Less commercial traffic on the lakes translates to fewer dollars being moved through local ports in commerce.

With the pandemic basically grinding to a halt the economy back in March, it coincided with the season just getting underway on the lakes. Many auto manufacturers had temporarily converted their plants to producing health care products that were needed at the time, thus the need for iron ore in the steel industry wasn’t as great. The same was true for other commodities, as well, such as stone and limestone.

In essence, the pandemic created a trickle-down hurt on most every area of the economy.

We hope that doesn’t come back to haunt us. There are only so many shipping days in any given season. Bad weather eventually wins out on the lakes, and ships have to lay up. With a demand for things like iron ore just now starting to increase, will there be enough time to ship to the industries what they will need to sustain themselves until spring?

Great Lakes economies didn’t need this setback.

— The Alpena News


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