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Thursday, June 20, 2024

US Great Lakes Shipping Companies Spend $120 Million on Winter Repairs

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

February 14, 2024

(Photo: Lake Carriers’ Association)

(Photo: Lake Carriers’ Association)

American shipping companies are spending more than $120 million to repair and maintain their fleets of Great Lakes bulk carriers this winter.

The fleet of U.S.-flagged ships, known as "lakers", can move more than 90 million tons of cargos annually, including iron ore, stone, coal, grain, salt and sand. Each year after the shipping season draws to a close, these vessels enter shipyards and repair facilities around the Great Lakes for a period of winter maintenance and repair. 

This year the winter work kicked off in mid-January after the navigational locks connecting Lake Superior to the lower lakes closed for repairs.

“It is truly an amazing system where U.S. lakers sail nonstop between March and January delivering as much cargo as possible before entering a two-month repair period,” said Jim Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers Association (LCA), a trade group representing the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet. “The work is not only vital to maintaining the U.S. fleet but also to the communities where it is performed, bringing excellent paying, hardworking jobs to everyday Americans.”

The state receiving the largest share of winter repair work this year is Wisconsin with $55 million, followed by Ohio with $39 million, Pennsylvania with $19 million and Michigan with $7 million, according to LCA.

Engineers carefully inspect each vessel and execute any needed repairs while also upgrading systems and crew quarters. Major investments have been made to improve habitability on board the vessels including wireless communications. State-of-the-art electronics will be refreshed including navigational computers and propulsion control systems. Hull plating will be replaced with steel made from iron ore that was shipped by the vessels to steel mills during the season.

While frigid winter conditions add another layer of difficulty to what is already a challenging job, LCA said this year's ship repair and maintenance work will be slightly less daunting due to milder temperatures across the Great Lakes region.