Your Trusted Resource for Wisconsin’s Domestic Maritime Industry
Port Authorities, Maritime Activity Foundational to Wisconsin?s Economy ? In Good Times and Bad
By: Adam Tindall-Schlicht, Director of Port Milwaukee & President of the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association
The global pandemic has affected every facet of life and work in 2020, and the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 has made the work of Wisconsin?s commercial ports all the more essential. 27 million metric tons of cargo are moved through Wisconsin?s ports each year. The maritime economy supports 7,484 jobs, creates $1.4 billion in economic activity, and induces $240 million in federal, state and local taxes annually in Wisconsin. Thriving port authorities and harbors with healthy shipping and ongoing access to modern infrastructure deliver results: high employment, robust domestic commerce, international trade, and a resilient economy in Wisconsin.
The importance of shipping and the maritime economy in Wisconsin was made clearer in 2020. In April 2020, the U.S. Navy awarded a shipbuilding contract worth over $5.5 billion to Fincantieri in Marinette; Wisconsin?s shipbuilding industry has supported thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact in statewide over decades. Interlake Steamship, a leader on the Great Lakes since its founding in 1913, made historic investments in Wisconsin this year. The keel for Interlake?s newest vessel, the Mark W. Barker,was laid in Wisconsin this year. This is the first U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier built in more than 25 years. Interlake?s acquisition of both the historic S.S. Badger ferry and the articulated Undaunted/Pere Marquette commercial tug/barge further highlighted Wisconsin?s maritime economy in 2020. In Milwaukee, the Port received one of the first grants nationwide from the U.S. Department of Transportation?s new Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), which will partially fund a new $35 million shipping terminal for the worldwide export of Wisconsin agricultural commodities.
While much progress has been made to improve Wisconsin?s deep-draft commercial ports and recreational harbors in recent years, challenges remain. The American Association of Port Authority (AAPA) estimates that commercial port performance was down 15% nationwide related to the COVID-19 economic recession. Historic high waters on the Great Lakes caused damaged to port infrastructure and eroded lakefront in 2020; increasingly extreme weather is causing ongoing harm to critical infrastructure. Renewed focus on maritime coastal resiliency is needed.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to fund a new Soo Lock, the infrastructure backbone of the Great Lakes shipping economy, and ongoing programmatic support from the State of Wisconsin is necessary to derive statewide economic benefits from this important federal project. Across the state, Wisconsin?s commercial ports and harbors require millions of dollars to address long-delayed preventative maintenance projects and multimodal transportation infrastructure repairs. Increasing Harbor Assistance Program (HAP) funding at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to at least $60 million will immediately fund multiple, shovel-ready projects in the State and provide a needed support following COVID-19.
From La Crosse and Prairie Du Chien to Washburn, Bayfield and Bell to Green Bay, Manitowoc and Milwaukee, Wisconsin?s commercial ports are hubs of economic and recreational activity. Wisconsin?s essential transportation employees worked steadily through pandemic conditions to keep shipping activity robust in 2020. They will continue to do so in the years ahead. The future productivity of Wisconsin?s growers and manufacturers depend on modern transportation infrastructure, and ports are an integral part of the supply chain. Continued leadership from local and State officials will prove decisive in sustaining Wisconsin?s billion dollar shipping industry and realizing new maritime economic opportunities across the State.?
M/V Herbert C. Jackson at the Port of Milwaukee
The Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act
The Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate on March 3, 2021 will codify the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) icebreaking mission on the Great Lakes into law.?The bipartisan bill, championed by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Mike Gallagher, recognizes the importance of moving winter commerce throughout the Great Lakes which keeps our ports competitive, people employed, and buoys both Wisconsin and the nation?s economy.
The bill also includes authorization for the construction of a new heavy Great Lakes Icebreaker (GLIB) which would most likely be built at a Wisconsin shipyard and derived from Great Lakes iron ore with steel produced at a Great Lakes steel mill and would serve Wisconsin and surrounding states for generations.
Several key Wisconsin ports benefit from USCG icebreaking including Green Bay, Milwaukee, Superior, Sturgeon Bay, and Marinette.?Products such as fuel oil, road salt, iron ore, and limestone are critical to rebuilding the nations economy and infrastructure and the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act provides reassurance that commerce will have predictable and reliable assistance during the winter months when 15 percent of vital U.S. cargo is moved.?Senator Baldwin and Congressman Gallagher continue to put Wisconsin?s maritime industry at the forefront.
CGC Mackinaw and M/V Burns Harbor
The U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet continues to invest heavily in their ships, the region, and Wisconsin.
This year alone U.S. Great Lakes shipping companies will invest nearly $87 million in their vessels at shipyards and facilities across the Great Lakes.?That includes over $36 million in Wisconsin, $33 million in Ohio, $13 million in Pennsylvania, and over $4 million in Michigan.?The work includes replacing steel plating, engine overhauls, navigation equipment updates, and conveyor belt repairs and replacements.
The conveyor belt work is critical as the U.S. Great Lakes fleet of ships are unique with their ability to unload massive amounts of bulk cargo without shoreside assistance.?The innovative self-unloading technology allows a 1,000-foot ship to unload 70,000 tons of cargo in eight hours.
Ships that are 40 and 50 years old, or even older, continue to sail the Great Lakes efficiently because of annual maintenance work performed by Great Lakes shipyards, like those at Sturgeon Bay and Superior, paid for by the U.S. owned, U.S. operated and U.S. crewed vessel operators.?The freshwater of the Great Lakes allows vessels to sail for decades while ocean carriers must completely replace their vessels frequently due to the corrosive nature of saltwater and a system built around disposal and replacement over maintenance, unlike the Great Lakes fleet.
Winter Layup at Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Domestic Maritime Coalition (WIDMAC) | 3515 N. Summit Ave., Shorewood, WI 53211