U.S. shippers investing $126 million on lakers in layup

(CLEVELAND) — 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. Vessels ranging in length from over 1,000 feet to smaller tug and barge combinations have taken to docks and ship repair facilities around the Great Lakes region.

This year alone, U.S. Great Lakes shipping companies will invest over $126 million in their vessels at shipyards and facilities across the Great Lakes. That includes 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.

Lake Carriers’ Association photo

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. The raw materials are transformed into finished products like steel which are then reinvested into our vessels,” said Jim Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers’ Association. “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.”

Hundreds of skilled workers will be employed welding, pipefitting and installing electronics and other critical components. The amount of work being invested by U.S. Great Lakes shipping companies remains a testament to the continued vitality of U.S. Great Lakes shipping.

– Lake Carriers’ Association

By Rich Miller