PORTAGE | The outlook for 2013 at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is slow and steady with increased shipments in the early going but some uncertainty later in the year.
“It’s hard to project very far out,” said Jody Peacock, director of corporate affairs. “Overall, we are optimistic as the trends seem to be going in the right direction. All the port companies are on different schedules and economic trends.
“As the economy continues to recover we’re going to see maritime shipping both through the Great Lakes and inland rivers play a critical part.”
Frick Services is a warehousing company housed at the Port that provides services for both dry and liquid bulk commodities. Chief Operating Officer Dan Frick’s forecast follows the same overall pattern. Halfway through the year the company will be above last year’s pace across all commodities.
“We’ve had a fairly consistent uptrend in volumes handled here with the exception of 2008 when the financial issues took place,” Frick said. “We’re expecting a strong ... June but it’s hard to say through the entire year. Some of our commodities are seasonal and are impacted by the weather.”
Three new companies have located at the Port are expected to spur further growth. Ratner Steel opened a $14 million steel processing facility and Phoenix Services built a state-of-the-art slag processing facility. PI&I Motor Express will handle steel from the NLMK mini-mill.
Peacock said 2011 was a banner year because of project cargo shipments related to construction and the transport of heavy equipment. The port handled the mammoth shipment of a 1.65 million pound crane used for the modernization at BP Whiting Refinery.
Shipments were down slightly in 2012 but well ahead of the previous five-year average by nearly 7 percent, Peacock said. Grain, primarily corn exports, was up by 20 percent and fertilizer imports by 35 percent.
“That’s a good sign,” he said. “They tend to go hand-in-hand. Farmers need the fertilizer to grow the crops which are then shipped to overseas markets.”
Peacock said there has been more construction recently, which drives products through the Port.
“We’re still headed in the right direction and see no indication tonnages are dropping in any of the major cargo areas,” he said.
Of concern is the Marseilles Lock and Dam near Seneca, Ill., which was critically damaged during spring flooding. Seven barges broke loose from a tow and tore 20-foot holes in two of the dam’s gates. The Army Corps of Engineers closed part of the river to repair the locks.
“If cargoes can’t get through they get delayed and that’s a major disruption to the operations, supply chain, inventories and costs,” Peacock said. “That could cause problems if there is an extended delay.”