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Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor has third best year in history

The Federal Caribou docks in August during its Great Lakes maiden voyage at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. The port handled 2.6 million tons last year, the third highest amount in the last decade.

Tonnage declined by about 7 percent at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor last year, but it was still the port's third-best year in the last decade.

The deepwater port on Lake Michigan handled 2.6 million tons of cargo in 2016, down from 2.8 million tons in 2015. More than 8.6 million tons of cargo have passed through the port since 2014, the best three-year run in its 52-year history.

"Fourth-quarter shipments were especially strong for us and included two export ships of Indiana grain, raw materials for the steel industry as well as several large-dimensional cargoes," Port Director Rick Heimann said.

Last year, the port invested $2.5 million in infrastructure projects, including dredging, the replacement of 2,000 feet of railroad track and the addition of more docks for handling international vessels. Tenant company Ratner Steel is investing $8 million at the port to add 100,000 more square feet to its service center there.

"Watching the Ratner Steel expansion take shape is especially encouraging because it further demonstrates that by using the port's strategic location and multimodal capabilities, a company can gain a competitive advantage and grow its business," Heimann said.

The port saw a 25 percent jump in heavy lift cargoes, including wind tower blades, storage tanks and large cranes from Europe for intermodal yards across the Midwest. Gain shipments shot up 57 percent, mineral and oil shipments rose by 19 percent and coal increased by 11 percent.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.