The Cleveland-based Lake Carriers Association (LCA) reports that its member companies will invest over $126 million in their vessels at shipyards and facilities across the Great Lakes in the winter period prior to the opening of the 2023 St. Lawrence Seaway season in late March.
U.S. shipping companies operating exclusively on the Great Lakes have transitioned from sailing to the annual process of repairing, maintaining and modernizing their fleet of lakers, the LCA noted. Vessels ranging in length from over 1000-feet to smaller tug and barge combinations have moved to docks and ship repair facilities around the Great Lakes region.
The investments included over $48 million in Wisconsin, $43.5 million in Ohio, $9 million in Michigan, and $26 million spread across Minnesota, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania. The work includes replacing steel plating, engine overhauls, navigation equipment updates, and painting. Some vessels will be completely pulled from the water in a dry dock to be inspected, cleaned, and repainted.
The work is critical to maintaining a fleet of freshwater behemoths that beginning in March will constantly ply Great Lake waterways until January when the vessels return to the docks for the next repair cycle.
“It is a unique system here on the Great Lakes where U.S. shipping companies transport critical raw materials from the northern Great Lakes to manufacturing facilities on the lower lakes,” stated LCA President Jim Weakley. “The raw materials are transformed into finished products like steel which are then reinvested into our vessels.”
Mr. Weakley added: “The relationship between Great Lakes shipyards and U.S. shipping is vital to the regional economy and supports our national economic security. Without this mutually beneficial relationship, it would be difficult to keep the pilot light of North American manufacturing lit.”
(Photo of U.S. Great Lakes vessel from LCA)