PORTAGE | Shipments rose by 28 percent in August over last year at The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor on the strength of increased fertilizer and steel traffic.
Over the first eight months of the year, shipments at the deep-water port in Porter County were 21 percent ahead of last year's pace, according to the Marine Delivers initiative that supports the shipping industry throughout the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system
The port on the southern shore of Lake Michigan has been seeing significant increases in shipments of fertilizer, semi-finished steel, steel byproducts and the raw materials that go into steel.
Shipments have risen for four straight months at the 600-acre port, which is home to 10 steel-related companies and a major hub of steel processing.
"Our port companies handle a diverse mix of cargoes, but being located in the steel capital of North America certainly has a tremendous impact on volumes coming through this port on ocean, lake and barge routes," port director Rick Heimann said.
Total cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes have fallen 9 percent so far this year, as compared to the same period in 2012. The 19.3 metric tons of cargo moved in August was a slight uptick over July.
Steel production throughout the Great Lakes has begun to make a comeback, rising by more than 50,000 tons over the last two weeks, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Shipments of iron ore and coal – which are raw materials used in steelmaking – still remained down in August by 15 percent and 2 percent respectively.
Scrap metal shipments, however, increased by 3 percent, and pig iron jumped up 6 percent.
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor and other Great Lakes ports spent the traditionally slow month of August trying to line up new cargo shipments and continuing work on infrastructure projects. A rail construction project in Portage is expected to be finished at the end of this month.
"Over the past three years, we have upgraded the majority of the mainline rail track throughout the port," Heimman said.
The port is operating well under its capacity, at a time when the mayors of East Chicago and Gary are floating proposals for new deep-water ports. Ports of Indiana chief executive officer Rich Cooper recently testified that the existing port in Portage could handle three to four times as much cargo as it does today.