Port of Monroe partners with Newlab to create living lab for emerging technology

Sourced from Newlab LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/newlabnyc_port-of-monroe-and-newlab-at-michigan-central-activity-7100583558741704704-G0ch?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop


Today the Port of Monroe was announced as the first partner in the Newlab-Michigan Central testing network, a portfolio of multimodal pilot sites in Southeast Michigan that will serve as platforms to enable rapid testing of new technologies in real-world conditions.

As the on-the-ground project facilitator, Newlab is assembling a network of organizations and startups to drive the recently-launched Multimodal Logistics Challenge, an initiative designed to accelerate cross-sector collaboration around low-carbon, multimodal logistics.

The Port of Monroe is Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie and serves as the gateway to the State of Michigan’s far-reaching multimodal transportation network. Located on the deep-draft frontage of the River Raisin, with direct Class 1 rail access and immediate proximity to major freeways, the Port of Monroe represents the closest convergence of major freight assets anywhere in the region.

Port of Monroe will also soon be the first container terminal in Michigan and with continued support from Newlab and Michigan Central, the most state-of-the-art port on Lake Erie.

In addition to Port of Monroe and Michigan Central, thanks also to The Office of Future Mobility and Electrification at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, another critical partner in the Port of Monroe multimodal logistics project.


Watch the video:



Sourced from Crain’s Detroit Business: Autonomous ships could soon be sailing the Great Lakes | Crain’s Detroit Business (crainsdetroit.com)

Michigan will be home to the first-of-its-kind testing network of maritime technology as Newlab at Michigan Central in Detroit targets the Port of Monroe for one of its first major pilots.

The project, expected to kick off in earnest in the coming weeks, seeks to untangle a supply chain plagued by inefficiencies while bringing new life to a port that is losing its traditional shipping operations.

The Port of Monroe will be the first of several testing sites for mobility projects in Southeast Michigan planned by Newlab and Michigan Central since the Brooklyn-based startup incubator set up shop in the Book Depository building renovated by Ford Motor Co. in Corktown. The pilot program also represents the first big test of Newlab’s model — to bring together startups, industry and the public sector — in the Michigan market.

The pilot project in the southeast corner of Michigan is expected to include emerging technologies running the gamut of port logistics, from battery-powered rail cars and crane stabilization software to autonomous boats. For the Port of Monroe, it means the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of maritime transportation at a time of great change for supply chains and energy sourcing, said Paul LaMarre, director of the port.

“The Great Lakes maritime industry for decades has operated in somewhat of a time capsule. We have been wholly reliant on the dry bulk cargos that have kept our economy going,” LaMarre said. “However, as we both domestically and globally move to a goal of decarbonization, dry bulk cargo trends are changing.”

That trend is hitting home in Monroe in a big way. DTE Energy Co., Michigan’s largest power utility, said it will phase out the Monroe Power Plant, one of the country’s largest coal plants, entirely by 2032 — sooner than previously expected. With the loss of its largest driver of cargo looming, the port is attempting to reinvent itself as the state’s only container terminal.

The Newlab project aims to assist with that process while also providing startups a coveted opportunity to tinker with their technology in the real world, said Sahil Jain, director of applied innovation at Newlab.

“We are trying to drive the market, industry, government and startups toward realizing the future,” Jain said. “It is a bet, for lack of a better word, on where we think the world is heading.”

Transportation, Jain believes, will eventually move away from a hub-and-spoke model centered on the large coastal ports to a disaggregated network of ports and terminals.

“There’s incredible inefficiency in the system in the way that things move,” he said.

Modernizing a port

Millions of dollars will be invested into the Port of Monroe project over the next couple of years, according to Newlab, but a breakdown of investment was not provided. The project is being supported by Michigan Central and the state’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. It aims to leverage public funding already directed at the port, including an $11 million grant from the United States Maritime Administration last year and a $5 million state grant earlier this year to support its pursuit of container shipping.

“By fostering technological advancements and greener solutions for marine highways in Monroe, we not only enhance the state’s supply chain resilience but also drive towards positive economic growth for our friends and neighbors across the region,” Justine Johnson, recently named Michigan’s chief mobility officer, said in a statement.

Newlab is bringing on several startups to participate. One of the first recruits is Mythos AI, a West Palm Beach-based company focused on vertically integrated vessel automation.

“Our goal at Mythos is to turn the supply chain into what looks like a conveyor belt of goods instead of what it is today, which is a complete traffic jam,” said co-founder and CEO Geoff Douglass.

The answer, Douglass believes, is automation. That includes autonomous ships — eventually — but there are a lot of steps to get there. The first is to deploy the “Roomba of ports,” the startup’s autonomous, but manned, vessel that maps out the depth of the water from the surface to eventually create a digital twin of the port.

The data will be shared with the Port of Monroe to inform the size of ships able to navigate into or out of the port, which has an immediate upside as construction crews undergo dredging there, Douglass said.

The longer-term goal is to complete an autonomous voyage from the Port of Monroe to another yet-to-be-identified Great Lakes port, first with the startup’s 26-foot aluminum workboat. The idea is to develop the machine learning and eventually enable autonomous shipping vessels.

“Once you create that brain, you can transfer it to other systems, and that’s what we’re doing,” Douglass said.

The planned autonomous voyage would be a first in the U.S., Douglass said. Autonomous vessels have been tested around the world, but there has never been an inland autonomous navigation from port to port. If the funding and testing go according to plan, the voyage could happen next year. It would be in U.S. Coast Guard compliance and with a person on board able to take over the craft, Douglass said.

“This will definitely be the first of its kind,” Jain added. “There is no autonomous port-to-port movement of vessels happening today. As far as we understand this is not happening anywhere in the world.”

Startups get involved

Mythos will have two of its seven employees based at the port for the project. While there, it will dip its toe in the water for a potential new company base. “Part of it is understanding if we can actually build a tech company there,” Douglass said.

The other startups expected to take part in the pilot are:

  • Termina Industries, based in Austin, Texas: A company building AI platforms to digitize logistics yards, giving operators visibility and control over critical transportation assets in real time. They will pilot technology to capture data and track containers/chassis movement at Port of Monroe’s new customs inspection facility.
  • Intramotev, based in St. Louis, Mo.: A company developing battery-assisted and self-propelled railcar retrofit technology. Its pilot will focus on an autonomous retrofit of a railcar and piloting of constrained autonomy for conveyance of bulk goods at the Port of Monroe.
  • Monolets Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif.: This company is leveraging proprietary Bluetooth wireless mesh technology to provide real-time, item-level asset location and condition data to improve performance, energy efficiency and cost efficiency across supply chains. Monolet will pilot its shipping labels that sense temperature, humidity, GPS, 3D location at the Port of Monroe on cargo and containers.

For the Port of Monroe, the play for becoming a port for shipping containers looks nothing like international ports on the coasts, which accommodate ships carrying 35,000 containers. Ships on the Great Lakes can handle 400 containers at the most, LaMarre said.

“We are talking about value, not volume of containers,” he said. “We’re not importing consumer goods from foreign manufacturers. We will be exporting Michigan-manufactured products and importing critical components to serve Michigan industry. This is a value-added proposition.”

Becoming a testbed for maritime technology will not only allow the port to support emerging companies, it will boost the port’s efficiency and improve its prospects for long-term sustainability, LaMarre said.

He said the port is in ongoing discussions with automakers and auto suppliers about supply chain opportunities at the port, but he declined to offer details.

“We are going to get one shot at this,” he said.

LaMarre elected president of AGLPA, Port receives another Pacesetter Award

Port of Monroe director Captain Paul C. LaMarre III was elected president of the American Great Lakes Ports Association at the organization’s annual conference in Chicago last week. AGLPA represents the interests of commercial ports and port users on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. Its members include 16 public agency port authorities and more than 30 associate members representing allied companies and organizations.

“As a lifelong student of the Great Lakes maritime industry, I am humbled by the opportunity to serve our Great Lakes ports as the President of AGLPA, but most importantly to lead our association as ‘one port’ sustaining our region through relationships and relevance,” said LaMarre.

Also at this event, the Port of Monroe received a Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter award for the 2022 shipping season this week. The award was presented to LaMarre by Great Lakes Seaway Administrator Adam Tindall-Schlicht. It is the seventh Pacesetter award the Port of Monroe has received since 2013.

The Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award is an award presented to Great Lakes ports by the U. S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) that report increases in international tonnage during a shipping season. It was established in 1992 to recognize the achievements of U.S. ports whose activities resulted in increasing international tonnage shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway, excluding Canada, in comparison to the previous year.



Governor Whitmer visits Port of Monroe

On Monday, April 3, the Port of Monroe welcomed Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to its facilities for a tour and press conference. It is believed to be the first time that a Michigan Governor has visited a Port in the State of Michigan.

The magnitude of the Great Lakes shipping industry was on full display as the thousand-foot freighter James R. Barker was docked at the Port’s riverfront dock during the event. The Barker, owned by the Interlake Steamship Company, is one of thirteen thousand-foot ships on the Great Lakes and is capable of transporting over 63,000 tons of cargo in a single trip. Joining the Barker was the Great Lakes Towing tug Georgia and Vane Brothers tugboat New York.

The Port is celebrating new infrastructure investments in 2023 as it builds for the future.

Michigan Maritime Gateway

The Port of Monroe is developing the Michigan Maritime Gateway, which will be the first maritime container terminal in the State of Michigan. In July 2022, the Port of Monroe and the Opportunity Center at Arthur Lesow Community Center (ALCC) in Monroe was awarded nearly $13 million in funding from the bipartisan Fiscal Year 2023 state budget. The Port received $5 million for fiscal year 2023 in support of its container terminal project, and the Opportunity Center received $7.8 million to support facility improvements and continued programming. This service will allow Michigan importers and exporters access to international markets through the St. Lawrence Seaway. With its new container capability, the Port of Monroe is poised to join Cleveland, Ohio and Duluth, Minnesota as the only ports on the Great Lakes capable of handling international containers. Additional ports with container handling capability will strengthen the network of container ports on the Great Lakes.

Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project

In October 2022, Michigan Senator Gary Peters secured an $11 million federal grant for the Port of Monroe. These federal dollars will fund the port’s Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project, which will rehabilitate the Port’s existing infrastructure and build out new infrastructure. This project was funded through the Port Infrastructure Development Program. Governor Whitmer signed a letter in support of the project. The project is intended to increase the export of wind energy components manufactured by Port partner Ventower Industries. Last season, 90 wind towers manufactured at Ventower were exported through the Port of Monroe to New York for a regional renewable energy project.

Michigan State Grant Program

In July 2022, Governor Whitmer signed legislation to establish the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Grant Program Act, to award grants to owners of port facilities and expand Michigan’s commercial maritime ports. The Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office in the Michigan Department of Transportation will create the Port Facility Improvement Fund to implement and administer the program. The Port of Monroe was a dormant facility over a decade ago. Continued support from the State of Michigan will help the Port of Monroe and other maritime terminals in Michigan grow, diversify, and contribute to the State’s economy.

Read the articles about the Port’s progress:

Gov. Whitmer tours Port of Monroe following multimillion grant award – The Monroe News

Port of Monroe to become first container port in Michigan – WXYZ Detroit

Port of Monroe upgrades will include container shipping terminal – The Detroit News

Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer pays visit to Port of Monroe – Toledo Blade


Port of Monroe celebrates successful 2022-23 shipping season

The 2022-23 shipping season was another successful season for the Port of Monroe. Along with terminal operator DRM Terminal Services, the Port welcomed new ships to its docks and celebrated new cargo evolutions during the shipping season while setting the stage for growth in 2023 and beyond.


A full load of Monroe-manufactured wind towers depart in August 2022.

The Port undertook a large wind energy project that saw 90 wind tower sections manufactured in Monroe by partner Ventower Industries exported to Oswego, New York. This is just the latest renewable energy project the Port has completed with its stakeholders, previously handling and staging components destined for the Isabella Wind Project in Isabella County in 2020 and facilitating the export of Ventower wind towers to Peru in 2019.

A new Manitowoc crawler crane, purchased with funds from the Marine Highway grant program, was put into service. The Port is an active Marine Highway on route M-90 and continues to seek new short-sea-shipping opportunities.

In partnership with Gerdau and the Interlake Steamship Company, the Port realized an all-marine route for special bar quality (SBQ) steel manufactured at Gerdau’s facility in Monroe to the twin ports of Duluth, MN/Superior, WI. A trial shipment was loaded on Interlake’s Paul R. Tregurtha in August using the Port’s new crawler crane, demonstrating the feasibility of moving the cargo by vessel. Subsequent cargoes were loaded on the new Mark W. Barker. Over the past decade, Gerdau has invested nearly $400 million to transform the Monroe mill into a world class SBQ production facility and recently announced an additional $40.4 million investment at the Monroe mill to upgrade the facility’s rolling mill capabilities.

Additionally, the Port introduced a new alternate logo featuring the Port’s “flagship” tug Georgia of the Great Lakes Towing Co. Built in 1897, the Georgia celebrated her 125th year of continuous service as the oldest commercially operated tugboat in the world. The Georgia also became fully compliant with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Subchapter M requirements making her the oldest vessel in compliance.


Herbert C. Jackson takes on a load of bottom ash at the Riverfront dock.

A total of 2,513,890 tons were received at the Port’s facilities and docks along the River Raisin during the 2022 shipping season. This represents a 10 percent increase in tonnage when compared to the previous season.

The DTE Monroe Power Plant received 1,753,772 short tons of coal and petroleum coke, as well as 246,745 tons of limestone.

The Port handled a total of 121,235 tons of bulk, a 3 percent increase from last season. The Port continues to be a valuable part of the beneficial reuse supply chain on the Great Lakes.

242,085 tons of steel coils were handled by vessel, smashing the total of 132,066 tons received the season prior and resulting in an 83 percent increase. 6,518 tons of SBQ produced by Gerdau were handled.

A total of 143,035 tons of liquid asphalt was received by Michigan Paving and Materials representing a 3 percent increase from last season.

The Port will continue to see shipments of liquid asphalt and steel coils through the winter as weather permits.


Ashton Marine tug Meredith Ashton underway on Lake Erie.

The Port welcomed Ashton Marine for the first time this past season. This Michigan-based tug company provided the transportation to New York during the wind energy project.

Four different McKeil Marine vessels called on the Port to deliver steel coils during the season, including the Alouette Spirit, Florence Spirit, Harvest Spirit, and Huron Spirit.

In total, the new Mark W. Barker visited Monroe three times in its delivery season, loading synthetic gypsum once and bar stock twice. The vessel’s square holds and wide hatch openings make it well-equipped to handle a number of cargoes in and out of Monroe.

Other newcomers to the Port in 2022 included the articulated tug/barge Clyde S. VanEnkevort/Erie Trader of VanEnkevort Tug & Barge and the Malcolm Marine tug Manitou.

The most frequent visitor to the Port was the Paul R. Tregurtha with 22 visits to the DTE Monroe Power Plant and 1 visit to the Riverfront dock. The Tregurtha was followed by the American Century with 18 and the Harvest Spirit with 11.

Check out this gallery to see all the ships that visited the Port during the 2022-23 shipping season!

On the horizon

Harvest Spirit offloads steel coils at the Riverfront dock.

In July 2022, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Grant Program Act which established the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office within the Michigan Department of Transportation that will create the Port Facility Improvement Fund. This increased maritime focus within MDOT will bring new funding opportunities to the Port of Monroe and other maritime stakeholders in the State of Michigan, which will enhance competition for stakeholders with this fund functioning as the local match in competitive federal grants.

In October 2022, the Port of Monroe was awarded over $11 million in funds from the Port Infrastructure Development Program for its Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project. The award is the largest in the Port’s history. The project will involve the rehabilitation of aging infrastructure at the Port including its turning basin dock which dates back to the 1930s and a small slip adjacent to the Port’s office that will be rebuilt into a “maritime readiness slip” to be used by local emergency response vessels. The Port’s existing riverfront wharf will also be rehabilitated, and a new identical wharf will be constructed on the riverfront to be used exclusively for the transfer of wind energy components. The project also includes the installation of shore power along the riverfront.

The Port continues to work with its stakeholders to develop the Michigan Maritime Gateway, a new container terminal that will complement existing maritime container operations on the Great Lakes and connect local importers and exporters to global markets. The Port received $5 million from the State of Michigan in support of this project.


Port Director Captain Paul C. LaMarre III

Port Director Captain Paul C. LaMarre III

“The 2022 shipping season was one of the most historic in the Port’s history. While achieving near record tonnage throughput the Port handled the most diverse mix of vessels and cargoes since the Port’s inception in 1932,” said Capt. Paul C. LaMarre III, Port Director, Port of Monroe. “Our continued growth is a testament to the hardworking men and women who breathe life into our operations. As we look to the season ahead, the amount of infrastructure investment and cargo throughput will only be rivaled by the pride each of us take in making the Port of Monroe more sustainable on behalf of the citizens and industry we serve.”

“Without the continued support and dedication of the Port’s management team, the local, state, and federal governments, the incredible successes to date would not have been possible,” said Stephen Gray, President, DRM Terminal Management. “DRM’s rapid increase in tonnage and investment in equipment and human capitol throughout the region is a testament to the potentials that become a reality when private and public partnerships are stewarded by good governing principles. I am particularly proud of our contribution to beneficial reuse and the impact it has on the local community and beyond.”

“The port commission is very proud of the achievements that the Port staff and DRM have accomplished, and we acknowledge that none of this would be possible without the exceptional leadership of our port director Paul LaMarre,” said Dale Brose, Chairman, Monroe Port Commission. “In the ten years he has been at Monroe, he has continuously demonstrated the ability to build effective public-private partnerships that serve the needs of Monroe citizens and strengthen local and regional industries.”

The Port’s new “Mariner Logo”

Peters Announces $11 Million in Federal Funding for Port of Monroe

DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters today announced that the Port of Monroe has been awarded $11,051,586 through the Port Infrastructure Development Program, funding that will be critical for strengthening and expanding the Port’s capabilities. The grant was awarded by the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Peters supported the Port’s application for this federal funding.

“The Port of Monroe is not only a critical resource for manufacturers in Michigan and across the Great Lakes region, but it also plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient trade and transport of products that families and businesses rely on every day,” said Senator Peters, Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports. “I was pleased to support the Port’s effort to secure this funding, which will expand cargo capacity, increase economic activity for the region and strengthen supply chains. I’ll keep fighting to make sure the Port is treated fairly, has the resources necessary to compete on a level playing field and reaches its full potential.”

“There are but a few rare moments in a Port’s history which can be considered monumental. This grant award represents the single largest investment in the Port of Monroe’s infrastructure since the organization’s creation in 1932 and will have profound effects on the sustainability and enhancement of our maritime infrastructure which supports the Port of Monroe’s continued growth as a regional hub for both domestic and international renewable energy cargoes,” said Paul LaMarre, Port Director of the Port of Monroe. “Senator Peters is the Port of Monroe’s champion. His unequivocal support for the Great Lakes maritime industry and Michigan’s role as the ‘Great Lakes State’ is second to none. His support of this grant and our continued efforts is humbly appreciated and will have far reaching effects on our Port’s future.”

The Port of Monroe Project award will go toward its Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project, funding four components: riverfront work, turning basin work, maritime readiness slip construction and shore power infrastructure.

  1. Component 1—Riverfront work will include replacing the surface of the existing wharf, constructing a second riverfront wharf to be used exclusively for vessel transfer of wind energy cargos, and reinforcing shoreline stabilization;
  2. Component 2—Turning Basin work will include rehabilitating the concrete dock cap, bollard and fender installation, and replacing roughly 390 feet of failed sheet pile;
  3. Component 3—Small Boat “Maritime Readiness Slip” construction will include demolishing and rehabilitating an existing small boat slip to be used by harbor assist vessels; and
  4. Component 4—Shore Power infrastructure will include removing existing overhead lines and providing shore power to the riverfront wharves.

Peters has been a strong advocate for increased funding for Michigan’s ports. During negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure law, Peters pushed for and succeeded in securing increased investments for the Port Infrastructure Development Program to fund port infrastructure needed to improve freight mobility, address port congestion, and improve port competitiveness.

As Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has supported funding for the Port Security Grant Program and has fought to support Michigan’s ports, especially the Port of Monroe, and ensure they receive fair treatment. Last year, he announced the Port of Monroe received a $770,983 federal grant to help upgrade cargo screening infrastructure and previously helped secure a $1.1 million federal grant for the Port to expand its maritime commerce operations. A bipartisan measure coauthored by Peters was signed into law requiring federal officials to assess all ports of entry, including finding ways to reduce wait times for passengers and cargo at the border. Peters has also repeatedly pressed U.S. Customs and Border Protection on why the Port of Monroe is being held to standards that are not applied to other ports in the region. He toured the Port of Monroe last year with Customs and Border Protection officials and Port of Monroe leaders to assess current operations and discuss resolving ongoing cargo clearance challenges that impact commerce at the port.

Newest Ship on the Great Lakes makes first Monroe call

Monroe, MI – The M/V Mark W. Barker, the newest ship on the Great Lakes, visited the Port of Monroe for the first time this past week.

The ship loaded a cargo of synthetic gypsum at the turning basin dock for delivery to Port Colborne, Ontario.

While moored at the Turning basin dock, the newest ship sailing the Great Lakes shared dock space with the oldest operating vessel on the inland seas. The Great Lakes Towing Tug Georgia dates all the way back to 1897 and is still active out of Monroe providing ship assistance and ice breaking services.

The Barker was built at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and entered service earlier this year. It is the first Great Lakes bulk carrier to be built on the Great Lakes in over 35 years, and is the first new vessel in Interlake’s fleet since 1981.

The Barker has a square-shaped, flat-bottomed cargo hold instead of a traditional V-shaped angled bottom found on most self-unloaders. The ship also has five large hydraulically controlled stackable MacGregor hatches that offer enhanced flexibility with project cargoes and expedite loading operations.

This combination of larger hatch openings and additional cargo hold space will allow the Barker to handle traditional bulk cargoes on the Great Lakes, as well as breakbulk cargoes like wind tower components.

“Any time a vessel of the Interlake Steamship Co. calls upon the Port, it is special. In this case, it is historic,” said Capt. Paul C. LaMarre III, Port Director, Port of Monroe. “Interlake’s continued support of our growth and cargo diversification has made them a major piece of the Port’s living Great Lakes legacy.”

The Mark W. Barker is named after Interlake’s current President and second-generation leader of the family owned and operated Interlake Steamship fleet.

More on the Mark W. Barker here:

Wind tower project wraps up at the Port of Monroe

Today, the Port of Monroe is celebrating the completion of a wind tower project that saw 90 wind tower sections move on an all-marine route to Oswego, New York.

The towers were manufactured by Monroe-based Ventower Industries, the only active wind turbine tower manufacturer in the United States located at a Port. The Port’s terminal operator, DRM Terminal Services, worked with Capital City Crane group crews to efficiently load the components at the Port’s riverfront dock. The towers were delivered to Oswego by the tug Meredith Ashton of Ashton Marine, where they are being staged with other components for a renewable energy project site in upstate New York.

The Port of Monroe was designated as part of the Marine Highway Route M-90 in 2016 by the U.S. Maritime Administration. This project is just one example of how the Port and its stakeholders are working to expand the use of America’s navigable waterways.


Check out our favorite photos:



Watch highlights of the project below:



Two receive Mariner of the Year awards at Sault Ste. Marie ceremony

Paul LaMarre Jr. (left), Capt. John Wellington, president of Soo Historic Sites (Valley Camp), and Kevin E. Sprague. Roger LeLievre photo

SAULT STE. MARIE, MI – Two men with strong ties to the Great Lakes maritime industry were honored at a Mariner of the Year awards dinner Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie.

In opening remarks, James H.I. Weakley, president of the sponsoring Lake Carriers Association, said the event was meant to turn “Great Lakes heroes into Great Lakes legends.”

Honored were Kevin E. Sprague and Paul LaMarre Jr. Sprague served as the Soo Area Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until his recent retirement. He not only oversaw the daily operations of the Soo Locks, he managed a badly-needed asset renewal project and saw the beginning of new lock construction.

Sprague began his federal career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, Soo Area Office in 1992 as a member of the St. Marys River branch, performing navigation channel maintenance. In 2000 he became the Chief of the Lock Operations Branch and eventually Chief of Lock Maintenance and Lock Operations. In 2010, he was selected as Soo Area Engineer. He spent his entire federal career in support of the Great Lakes shipping industry.

As Area Engineer he was responsible for the most important navigation project in the Great Lakes and Soo Locks. He was also responsible for federal hydropower facilities and was the onsite representative for the International Joint Commission’s Lake Superior Board of Control. His effort in support of the economic study for construction of a new lock at the Soo and telling its story was crucial for its subsequent funding. He retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2022, after a 30-year career at the Soo Locks.

Paul LaMarre Jr. comes from a family of Great Lakes sailors. He is a highly talented maritime artist, honored Great Lakes maritime historian and licensed tugboat captain. With more than 45 years of Great Lakes tugboat experience, he works for Detroit-based Gaelic Tugboat Co. and captains the passenger vessel Diamond Jack.

Mr. LaMarre has dedicated his life to the Great Lakes maritime industry past, present, and future. Following in the footsteps of his great uncles Frank and William Hoffman, both masters of Great Lakes freighters in the early 1900s, he has touched every aspect of the Great Lakes maritime trade and is highly regarded as an industry leader and historian.

His career began at the University of Detroit as an understudy to famed Great Lakes marine artist Father Edward J. Dowling where he learned the principles of painting Great Lakes vessels in watercolor. His artistic talents would open the door to many industry friendships, the most important being that of Capt. William A. Hoey, who would introduce him to a career as the corporate treasurer of the Gaelic Tugboat Co. & Diamond Jacks River Tours. Working for Gaelic Tugboat Co. for over 45 years (1978 to present), he has also served as longtime captain of d1e MN Diamond Jack.

He was also a founding board member of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. of Port Dover, ON which now operates one of the largest fleets on the Great Lakes.

In 2001, LaMarre was named Historian the Year by the Marine Historical Society of Detroit.

In 2013, received the International Shipmasters Detroit Lodge #7, Captain Lewis Ludington Award for his years of virtuous service. In 2015, the National Museum of the Great Lakes named LaMarre one of the Masters of Great Lakes Marine Art of the 20th Century as he has been the “industry’s artist” for over 50 years, completing commissioned works for nearly every Great Lakes fleet.

LaMarre has also inspired the next generation of Great Lakes leadership as his son Paul C. LaMarre III is a prominent industry advocate, port director and tug captain.

Plaques honoring both men will be installed in the Capt. John Wellington Marine Hall of Fame aboard the museum ship Valley Camp. The Great Lakes Hall of Fame is dedicated to the memory of those explorers, inventors, shipbuilders, sailors, and countless others who have made a contribution to the exploration and development of the Great lakes through the eras of sail, steam, and present.

Roger LeLievre for boatnerd.com


Watch the video commemorating Paul C. LaMarre Jr.’s induction into the Hall of Fame:

Port of Monroe and partners strengthen Great Lakes short sea shipping network

Port of Monroe and partners strengthen Great Lakes short-sea-shipping network

MONROE, MI – The Port of Monroe (Port) recently commissioned a new Manitowoc crawler crane. Its first job was to load approximately 400 tons of special bar quality (SBQ) steel onto Interlake Steamship Company’s M/V Paul R. Tregurtha, the largest ship sailing the Great Lakes.

The crane was purchased with funds through the U.S. Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway program. MARAD designated the Port of Monroe as part of Marine Highway Route M-90 in 2016. As a Marine Highway, the Port and its stakeholders are committed to developing and expanding marine highway service options in the United States to expand the use of America’s navigable waterways.

This latest cargo evolution is a perfect example of how the Port is working with its industry partners and local stakeholders to create new short-sea-shipping opportunities on the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system.

“Every ton counts. Though small by volume, the enormity of this cargo evolution rivals anything that the Port has done in the last decade,” said Capt. Paul C. LaMarre, Port Director, Port of Monroe. “This trial cargo is the epitome of U. S. flagged, short sea shipping on the Great Lakes.”

The Port’s industrial partner and neighbor Gerdau Special Steel was looking for the most economical way to move SBQ manufactured in Monroe to their grinding ball mill in Duluth, Minnesota. The SBQ is used as a feedstock to manufacture grinding balls used in the mining industry.

The Tregurtha, one of the Port’s most frequent visitors, was identified as the perfect vessel to move the SBQ as it is on a dedicated route between Monroe and the twin ports of Duluth/Superior. The cargo was efficiently transported on an all-marine route, through the Soo Locks, saving at least 13,000 highway miles and 275 driving hours in truck resources on America’s congested roadways.

The port’s diversity will continue to grow through collective stakeholder efforts, a new heavy-lift crane and continued use of congestion-free Great Lakes marine highway routes.

Governor Whitmer Signs Legislation Growing Michigan’s Maritime Economy, Other Legislation

LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed 15 pieces of legislation, bringing the total number of bipartisan bills signed to 919. The bills she signed today includes legislation to expand Michigan’s commercial maritime ports, growing Michigan’s economy.

“In Michigan, our waters define us, and we every Michigander is committed to protecting lakes—Great and small—for future generations,” said Governor Whitmer. “Today, I am proud to sign bipartisan legislation to grow Michigan’s maritime infrastructure and economy. Getting this done will help us stay focused on growing Michigan’s economy, creating good-paying jobs, and lowering costs. I will work with anyone to protect Michigan’s waters and invest in every region of our great state.”

Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Grant Program Act

Together, Senate Bill 744 and House Bill 5291 establish the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Grant Program Act, to award grants to owners of port facilities and expand Michigan’s commercial maritime ports, growing Michigan’s economy. The Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office in the Michigan Department of Transportation will create the Port Facility Improvement Fund to implement and administer the program. Michigan’s ports are an underutilized asset that could contribute to the state’s growing economy if given more investment.

“Our bipartisan bills present a historic opportunity for Michigan to become more competitive with other states by investing in the maritime industry,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang, D – Detroit. “I serve much of the Detroit Riverfront and know that Michigan’s location near the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway System is a competitive advantage we need to take care of. These bills signed into law by Governor will provide maritime improvement grants to allow ports to make necessary infrastructure upgrades, while also incentivizing port terminals to protect local communities, our water and our air.”

“It has taken nearly a decade of advocacy to reach this monumental accomplishment for the sustainability of Michigan’s Ports and commercial shipping industry,” said Paul LaMarre, Port Director – Port of Monroe. “Through Senator Chang’s leadership and advocacy of Senator Zorn and Representative O’Malley our legislature has shown that the Great Lakes shipping industry merits bipartisan support and is critical to our State’s economic prosperity.

“Governor Whitmer’s memorialization of this legislation is a testament to the many people of the “Great Lakes State” who have championed our cause and begun a new chapter in Michigan’s freshwater legacy,” continued Paul LaMarre, Port Director – Port of Monroe. “As the Chairman of the Governor’s Port Advisory Committee, it is my humble honor to express our sincerest thanks as a committee, port, and industry. I salute the Governor for all she has done to ensure that our State’s ports prosper and continue to serve as vital links to our regions broader transportation network.”

“This legislation is a game changer for Michigan ports and will allow the state to be more competitive in the shift toward greener modes of transporting goods and building a more resilient and innovative supply chain,” said Jonathan C. Kinloch, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority Chairman. “Our thanks go out to Senators Chang and Schmidt and Representative O’Malley, and of course Governor Whitmer, for their leadership on behalf of marine transportation in Michigan.”

House Bill 5291 was sponsored by Rep. Jack O’Malley, R – Lake Ann, and a copy can be found here.

Senate Bill 744 was sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D – Detroit, and a copy can be found here.

Read the full release here.