PORTAGE | An estimated 2.5 million tons of steel and other cargo passed through the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor last year, the most since 2006.
The deep-water port on Lake Michigan's southern shore had its second best year since 1998 because of increases in shipments of steel, fertilizer, road salt, coal and limestone. Overall shipments were up by 17 percent over 2012 and 23 percent over an average of the past five years.
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor was the second busiest in the state system, which saw a 20 percent increase in shipments last year. The port in Portage and the two ports on the Ohio River in Southern Indiana handled 8.3 million tons, the most since eight years and the third highest amount in the public-private organization's 52-year history.
All three Indiana ports saw double-digit increases in tonnage last year, largely because of increases of shipments in steel, coal and crops.
"Our ports finished the year on a record pace, which does create some optimism for 2014," CEO Rich Cooper said. "In 2013, our ports handled more steel fertilizer and minerals than any year in recent history. Steel, ag products and coal make up over 80 percent of the shipments at our three ports, so when those cargoes are up, it bodes well for shipping in Indiana. It was good to see ag cargoes rebound in 2013 after the previous year's drought, and the positive trend in manufacturing creates a brighter outlook for future steel shipments."
Shipments have grown significantly at the ports for five of the past six years. Last year, tonnage increased by 10 percent at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.
"Maritime shipments are heavily influenced by manufacturing trends and agricultural markets, so it's gratifying to see steady growth in shipments over multiple years," Cooper said. "This speaks to the success of the world-class companies located at our ports and their efforts to leverage the ports' multimodal connections to create sustainable competitive advantages that allow them to grow their businesses. Indiana's ports are built on a truly unique public-private partnership that has produced tremendous results for over 50 years."
The ports had a record fourth quarter, handling about 3 million tons of cargo despite icy conditions hampered steel mill-bound iron ore freighters on the Great Lakes. It was the most in a single quarter since the statewide port system was established in 1961.
Shipments rose by 21 percent at the Port of Indiana-Mount Vernon near Evansville and by 19 percent at the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville near Louisville, Ky.