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New London - Fewer cargo ships tied up at State Pier last year than in 2012, but tonnage increased to the highest level in six years, according to the annual shipping report released by the city's Office of Development & Planning.
"It's holding its own," said Ned Hammond, the city's economic development coordinator. "Steel is something that seems to be consistent."
The report, based on numbers supplied by port operator Logistec USA Inc., showed that 21 ships arrived at Adm. Harold E. Shear State Pier last year. That's 10 fewer than in 2012.
But total metric tonnage of copper, steel and other products reached 112,838 last year, just slightly above the 111,100 tons seen the year before.
It was the best year for tonnage offloaded at State Pier since 2007, though shipments didn't come close to measuring up to levels seen in the mid-2000s, when more than 200,000 metric tons arrived in two consecutive years.
Representatives of Logistec could not be reached to comment on the report, but late last year they reported 2013 was going to be very close to 2012 levels, which saw a near doubling of tonnage from the previous year.
"There's a lot of activity here," said Frank Vannelli, New London-based senior vice president of Logistec, last November.
The year started out with a bang as three ships arrived at State Pier within the first three weeks of 2013. But the summer months were slow, with only three ships tying up in the June-through-August period.
Ships arriving in New London came from Brazil (3), Belgium (12), Spain (1), Japan (2), Turkey (1) and China (2). The largest shipment came aboard the Ocean Perfect, which offloaded nearly 8,700 tons of steel from Belgium.
As in the past few years, nearly all local shipments involved steel and steel coil for use in a variety of manufacturing settings. This was the fourth consecutive year in which no forest products - used as building materials - came through the Port of New London.
It was also the third straight year in which no passenger ships came through the city.
But that will change in July, when the Dawn Princess arrives at the halfway point of an around-the-world cruise starting in Sydney, Australia.