Shippers investing $120 million into Great Lakes fleet

(CLEVELAND) — The annual process of maintaining the U.S.-flagged fleet of “lakers” on the Great Lakes began in mid-January after the navigational locks connecting Lake Superior to the lower lakes closed for repairs.

U.S. companies will invest more than $120 million into their vessels, bringing skilled labor to shipyards and repair facilities around the Great Lakes states. The state receiving the largest sum was Wisconsin with $55 million, followed by Ohio with $39 million, Pennsylvania at $19 million, and $7 million in Michigan.

Lake Carriers’ Association photo

“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. “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.”

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 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.

– Lake Carriers’ Association

By Professional Mariner Staff