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Ports of Indiana posts best year in its 58-year history

The first ship of the season arrived at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in April 2017. The Ports of Indiana posted a record year in 2018.

The Ports of Indiana posted a record year in 2018, during which the Hoosier state's three ports handled 14.8 million tons of cargo, the most since the ports authority was founded in 1961.

The Indianapolis-headquartered ports system, which consists of the deepwater Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan and two ports on the Ohio River, had “the best year in the organization's history.”

Cargo was up 25 percent over 2017 and 21 percent over the previous record year in 2015. It was the fifth consecutive year that Indiana's ports system handled more than 10 million tons of cargo and the first time it set records in each quarter.

"We are so grateful for such an extraordinary year and fully appreciate what it took on behalf of all our port businesses and employees to achieve this kind of highwater mark," said Vanta Coda II, chief executive officer of the Ports of Indiana. "Each of our ports builds and maintains exceptional infrastructure to allow our world-class port businesses to leverage what Indiana does exceedingly well — manufacture the products essential for modern life and move food products for the world.”

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Shipments of coal rose 58 percent year-over-year, soy products 26 percent, grain by 17 percent and steel by 4 percent. Steel is the system’s single largest commodity, and the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor and the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville collectively brought in more than two million tons of steel despite the 25 percent across-the-board Section 232 tariffs that make all foreign-made steel more expensive.

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor tends to bring in finished products like steel coil, beer tanks and wind turbines, and ship out grain from Indiana farmers to international markets. 

“Our essential multimodal connections provide companies access to water, rail and road, and provide critical avenues for businesses to meet market demands and remain globally competitive," Coda said.

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor has been expanding with the help of federal grants and the new bulk materials stevedore Metro Ports, which has been working to boost the amount of bulk materials that pass through the port.

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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.