LAKE CARRIERS ASSN. is a trade organization serving companies operating U.S. flag bulk cargo vessels on the Great Lakes and is designed to promote LAKE TRANSPORTATION . The present organization was founded in 1892 in Cleveland, superseding its two direct predecessors—the Lake Carriers Assn. headquartered in Buffalo and the Cleveland Vessel Owners Assn., organized in 1885 and 1880, respectively. The aim of the new voluntary alliance of steamship companies was to reduce navigation hazards on the Great Lakes; recommend improvements in harbors, channels, docks, and lighthouses; and help recruit and train vessel personnel. In its early years, the Lake Carriers Assn. maintained, at its own expense, certain navigation lights and financed important channel developments.
The fortunes of Great Lakes shipping vessels was tied to the fate of the domestic U.S. steel industry and throughout the 1980s the LCA's member companies witnessed a measurable decline in the number of iron ore shipments. In 1995 the association represented 14 Great Lakes fleets, including those of the CLEVELAND-CLIFFS IRON, M. A. HANNA, and OGLEBAY-NORTON companies. At that time, the group's member fleets had a combined total of 59 vessels and transported more than 95% of the tonnage of U.S. Great Lakes vessels (chiefly iron ore, coal, limestone, and grain). In addition to its original aims, the association promoted the common interests of its members as they related to legislative and regulatory matters. Of chief interest to the group's members were growing pressures to enact environmental regulations to combat the spread of non-indigenous species through the intake and discharge of ballast water. This issue became increasingly important locally after Great Lakes utilities blamed the introduction of the Zebra mussel (originally from the Black Sea) for nearly $5 billion in damage to water intake valves and other key portions of their infrastructure. As of 2002, the LCA was working diligently to prevent lake carriers from being included in any Federal regulation requiring the installation of ballast water treatment systems.
In 2002, LCA members transported nearly 163 million net tons of iron ore, coal, stone, and cement on the Great Lakes. In 2003, James H.I. Weakley succeeded George J. Ryan (who had been with the group since 1983) as president of the Lake Carriers Assn. The Lake Carriers Assn maintains its headquarters at 614 W. Superior Ave. and represents 12 U.S. companies that operate 52 vessels.