Ports of Indiana

In our series on the Ports of Indiana, we’ve seen steel and manufacturing hubs on Lake Michigan and the Ohio River. Today, we go to Indiana’s truest river port – Mt. Vernon, outside Evansville. It’s the highest-traffic port in the system, helping move processed grain, coal, and more all around the world. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports it’s also more susceptible than any other state port to the fallout from shifts in federal policy.

The first stop in our series on the Ports of Indiana was Burns Harbor, an international maritime facility in the heart of steel country. Four hours down Interstate 65, the Port of Jeffersonville is less a port and more a manufacturing hub that happens to be on the Ohio River.

For the next part of our series, Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports Jeffersonville is pushing ahead with expansions to cement its place in the Midwest industrial corridor.

Indiana’s three ports had their second-best start to the year ever in 2017.

Burns Harbor, Mt. Vernon and Jeffersonville moved 19 percent more cargo in the first six months of this year than at the same time in 2016 – 5.7 million tons overall.

Almost two-thirds of that went through the southwest port of Mt. Vernon, in the form of bulk cargoes – things like coal, ethanol, fertilizer and minerals, which get transferred between railcars, river barges and trucks.

Indiana’s ports system hopes a new contractor will help bring more bulk cargo than ever into Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan.

Metro Ports is a stevedoring company. It helps manage how cargo gets off- and on-loaded and distributed at 27 ports in 10 states, including huge facilities at Long Beach, California and Seattle-Tacoma, Washington.

Burns Harbor will be the company’s first Great Lakes operation when it takes over the bulk cargo terminal next month.

A who’s-who of Midwest business leaders met in Indianapolis Thursday to talk about their stake in fixing updating the nation’s aging transportation system.

Many say Indiana’s plans for road repairs should stand as a national, multi-modal example.

Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper, who helped host the roundtable discussion, says the state and national economies rely on more than ships and barges. Changes at one part of the system, he says, have huge ripple effects on the rest.

Indiana’s ports had one of their best years ever in 2016, moving nearly 11.3 million tons of cargo.

That included rising grain and coal exports, the kind that could see major changes under Trump administration trade reforms.

Marine Link

The Port of Indiana - Burns Harbor handled nearly 2.6 million tons of cargo in 2016, down from 2.8 million tons the previous year. But - despite the volume decrease - The Ports of Indiana says last year's tonnage brought the port to its highest three-year total in history.

More than 8.6 million tons of cargo have been handled at Burns Harbor since 2014.

The Ports of Indiana says grain shipments in 2016 were up 57 percent over the previous year while mineral and oil shipments increased 19 percent. Coal was up 11 percent as well.