The first ocean-going vessel of the season
docked at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor on Monday, thereby opening the
2020 international shipping season.
The M/V Muntgracht, a 466-foot general cargo
carrier, arrived following a five-day voyage through the St. Lawrence Seaway
to the deepwater port on Lake Michigan.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremonial
Steel Stein ceremony, a long-running tradition at the port, was canceled.
The Muntgracht is loaded with 1,650 tons of
wind turbine hubs and nacelles shipped from Bilbao, Spain, which will be
unloaded by port stevedore Federal Marine Terminals. The Netherlands-flagged
Muntgracht will then sail to Thunder Bay Port in Canada for its next load
bound for Europe.
“The arrival of the first international ship of
the year is always an exciting time as it signifies the prosperity the
vessels help to deliver to our region,” Port Director Ian Hirt said. “While
we can’t celebrate in our traditional way, we are grateful for the
commitment of our international partners to help deliver important cargo and
products to global markets.”
Hirt expects approximately 75 international
vessels this year, a significant increase over 2019, with most of the
additional cargos energy-related. “Many of the components for the natural
gas-powered electrical plants and the wind turbines are made
internationally,” Hirt noted. “As the Midwest pivots from coal to natural
gas and renewable energy sources, it makes sense for our port to handle the
large-dimensional cargo and transload to a nearby final destination.”
Martime operations at the Port of Indiana-Burns
Harbor generate nearly $4.9 billion per year in economic activity and
support more than 39,000 jobs. The port handled nearly 2.6 million tons of
cargo in 2019, a 6-percent decrease from 2018, due in part to high water
levels and trade uncertainty.
The St. Lawrence Seaway opened its locks to
ocean vessels on April 1, approximately a 10-day delay in an effort to
alleviate water levels on Lake Ontario.