Port of Monroe – Highlights from 2017

The Great Lakes Tug Colorado assists the M.V. Erik from St. John, Antigua, back into the waters of Lake Erie after the ship unloaded cargo at the Port of Monroe. Photo courtesy of Paul LaMarre III and Monroe News.

The Port of Monroe is Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie, and is fast becoming recognized for its excellent features related to low cost water transportation of raw materials. Monroe County is fortunate to have easy access to all major forms of transportation, including highway, water, rail and air modes of travel.

Yesterday in the Monroe News, there was an interesting article on some of the highlights on the Port of Monroe for 2017. The story is reprinted below for your convenience.

DTE Energy’s shift to transporting more coal by rail is among contributing factors for 2017′s shipping statistics. On its surface, it might appear to the untrained eye the Port of Monroe had a down year in 2017.

Port Director Paul C. LaMarre III said while the annual cargo tonnage is down, it is not the only measure of a port’s success. “We had the most diverse cargo come through the port in 2017,” LaMarre said. “A port’s success is not merely defined by its tonnage.”

During the year, the port’s tonnage was 1,782,479.77 metric tons, which is down from 2,385,372.89 metric tons in 2016. Instead, the number of jobs at the port has increased steadily in recent years, LaMarre said. In addition, the port has played an integral role in the businesses around it.

“A public port serves as the glue between the industrial businesses in the complex,” he said. “We are an advocate for transportation efficiency for anyone moving freight through the complex.” The port moved coal, limestone, petroleum coke, synthetic gypsum, stone and liquid asphalt during the year.

The most substantial drop came because of DTE Energy’s Monroe Power Plant cutting back on its use of marine cargo transport. Coal tonnage from the power plant dropped from 1,994,668.47 metric tons in 2016 to 1,391,380.83 metric tons in 2017.

“Monroe Power Plant’s marine tonnage continues to be the backbone of the port tonnage throughput,” LaMarre said. “Due to extremely favorable rail rates, you will note that DTE Energy took 665,010 less tons of coal by water than in 2016. This represents a 31 percent decrease in their marine coal deliveries and subsequently has reduced the port’s overall tonnage by 25 percent.”

The port is more active overall, but it is difficult to make up for hundreds of thousands of lost tonnage, he said.

“While marine tonnage will continue to flow to Monroe Power Plant it will once again be less in 2018,” he said. “The Port continues to urge DTE leadership not to underestimate the importance of multimodal delivery and remain steadfast in keeping as much waterborne tonnage as possible as favorable rail rates will last only as long as marine deliveries continue.”

“This tonnage is also very important to the port’s overall achievement of 1 million tons, which is the benchmark for continued funding for waterway maintenance by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers,” he said.

In 2015, the port recorded its second highest tonnage numbers on record as 2,417,843 metric tons of cargo was delivered to tenants. The amount is 2,165 metric tons less than the record in 2014. LaMarre credited the port’s terminal operator, DRM, for its work in handling the cargo. “DRM has garnered an identity where people are looking to bring cargo through the port,” he said.

Across North America’s binational marine highway, the Great Lakes shipping 2017 season was strong. The final tonnage results showed 38.1 million tons of goods moved across the Great Lakes during the year, which is a 9 percent increase in total cargo traffic.

“We are pleased to see the strong finish for the year, particularly with respect to iron ore shipments,” said Craig H. Middlebrook, deputy administrator of the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. in a statement.

“The demand for both traditional and new Seaway cargoes is having positive implications for Great Lakes shipping and maritime related employment. These numbers validate the importance of the system as an essential trade artery and reflect the continued growth in manufacturing, construction and other industries throughout the region,” he said.

In 2017, the construction on the new riverfront intermodal dock was competed. The $3.6 million project included money the port received from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The port received a $3 million loan from the MEDC’s investment funds for dredging and the dock.

The dock will open in the spring and will create two large, cellular cofferdams, which allows ships to be moored against the port.

Port of Monroe Wins Customs Designation

The Port of Monroe is anticipating a big year this year.

Director Paul C. LaMarre III said the port received big news in December. It was authorized as the first Great Lakes port to participate in reimbursable services agreements with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Cross-Border Trade Enforcement Act.

It establishes the framework for the port to work in partnership with Customs to develop the necessary tools, technology and personnel to accommodate new cargoes not now being cleared at Great Lakes seaports, LaMarre said.

“While it comes at a cost to the port, I see it as another major infrastructure investment that will lead to cargo diversity and further sustainability,” he said. “This is a major milestone.”

LaMarre credited U. S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich.; U. S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, and Gov. Rick Snyder for moving the initiative forward.

In 2015, the first European vessel since the 1960s came to call on the Port of Monroe. The vessel from Amsterdam was part of Splietoff Lines. The container liner service recently began marketing the Port of Monroe as a “Michigan gateway,” LaMarre said.

“They will have an office at the port for cargo development,” he said. “This could lead to additional international cargo.”

One of the biggest pieces of news that could occur this year involves shipping completed vehicles out of the port.

LaMarre said his team is working on applying for a federal grant through the marine highway route program. The grant is due in early March and by the middle of the month the port will know if it has received any funds. If it does win the grant, the port will construct a dock platform to allow for “roll on, roll off” capability for automobiles.

Plans are in the early stages but such an infrastructure upgrade could be a game-changer for the port.

“It would be huge for the port,” LaMarre said.

— Danielle Portteus