The Port of Cleveland’s second year of apparent success with containerized cargo is making other ports on the Great Lakes stand up and take notice. In mid-September, port officials said container volume is up 475% over 2014’s inaugural season, and revenues have tripled.
The port of Muskegon – the largest deep-water port on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan – is taking a hard look at adding containerized cargo handling equipment to its facilities. Currently, about half of the freight shipped through Muskegon is coal to fuel the Consumer’s Energy B.C. Cobb power plant in Muskegon. That plant is scheduled for shutdown in April 2016, so the port is looking for ways to replace that traffic.
Earlier this year, Logistics professional Les Brand of Grand Rapids’ Supply Chain Solutions told business leaders that there are many other potential shipping partners in the region who could benefit from containerized port services. He also cited raising truck freight rates and the chronic shortage of truck drivers as a key reason why shipping by water is looking more attractive.
One potential partner Muskegon is looking toward is Milwaukee, who recently touted its shipment of segments of a rotating kiln produced in West Allis, then loaded on barges at the Port of Milwaukee for transfer to Quebec. Each section – and there were six of them – was over 17 feet in diameter, up to 44 feet long, and weighed as much as 225,000 pounds. Mayor Tom Barrett praised the oversized shipment as a demonstration of how the efficiency of the port supports local manufacturing jobs.
Meanwhile, shipping continues to decline in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). Statistics demonstrate a nearly 40% decline between 1994 and 2012 – from 29 million tons in the most heavily trafficked point to less than 17 million tons in 2012. CAWS has been focused on the threat of Asian Carp crossing into Lake Michigan in recent years, but believes the entire system needs environmental redevelopment to be an asset to the region.