Lessenberry: Port of Monroe tugging economy forward

By Jack Lessenberry

Special to the Toledo Blade, 6/13/24

MONROE — Paul C. LaMarre III, the director of the Port of Monroe, loves tugboats. He photographs them, does vivid paintings of them, pilots them, and restores them.

Late last month, he took me out into Lake Erie and pointed at the New York, a new, multideck tug which looked like it could haul an island across the ocean. But as we set out, he gazed fondly down at his pride and joy, a comparatively tiny tug named America.

“Built in 1897,” he said, beaming down at the ship’s bright red pilot house. “Oldest working tug on the Great Lakes,” he said, still working, that is, because of all the time he’s spent restoring her.

What he doesn’t say is that in a very real sense, Mr. LaMarre is a tugboat himself — a human tugboat that has pulled millions into Monroe’s economy, and revitalized a port which a dozen years ago was almost dead.

Back in 2012, the port, such as it was, mainly functioned as a place where coal was brought in to power a nearby utility. It hadn’t had a port director since 1978. Then, Paul LaMarre, who had been manager of maritime affairs for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, was hired, and immediately began revitalizing it.

Mr. LaMarre, who was only 31 when he took the job, was no stranger to challenge on air, land, or sea. Twenty years ago, he was a U.S. Navy pilot, screaming across the skies in supersonic F-18 Hornet attack fighters. When he came back, he worked as a deck officer on ships, earned a degree in marine transportation, and then came to Toledo, where he took over the deserted old freighter that had been the Willis P. Boyer, restored her original name, and renovated her into today’s gleaming museum ship, the James M. Schoonmaker.

“Carty [Finkbeiner, the former Toledo mayor] gave me hell and said, ‘get this rusting old ship out of here!’” he laughed, but Mr. LaMarre doesn’t give up easily. In the end, the ship became the main attraction for the National Museum of the Great Lakes, and he was named a marine historical society’s historian of the year.

Monroe, however, was daunting. Within a few years, he’d managed to clean the place up, apply for grants, and begin attracting more cargo to Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie, which was soon being rebranded as the “Biggest Little Port on Lake Erie.”

Mr. LaMarre’s life, apart from his wife, Julie, and their two golden retrievers, is the port. But he is also a talented videographer with a gift for marketing, and misses no chance to tell his port’s story. People began to notice. U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a fellow former naval officer, began paying attention soon after he was first elected in 2014.

In October, 2022, he announced an $11 million grant to improve the port’s infrastructure. “This funding will expand cargo capacity, increase economic activity for the region and strengthen supply chains,” he then said. That it did, but the Port of Monroe was already on a roll; in a decade, it had won an annual award for the most increased tonnage by any Great Lakes port seven times.

How much has this helped the surrounding community and Monroe County, which is not one of the more affluent in the state? An economic analysis by Martin Associates in Lancaster, Pa. found that in 2022, total economic activity created by the port was $85 million, including 520 jobs directly generated by the cargo and vessel activity at the marine terminals at the port.

Those, in turn led to more jobs created or supported in the regional economy by activity at the port, all of which generated $8.4 million in state and local tax revenue.

But what irks those at the port is that they feel they could do so much more if they weren’t being blatantly discriminated against by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, which had been allowing Detroit and other ports to accept shipments of international maritime containers — but not Monroe.

Gregg Ward, the Port of Monroe’s international trade specialist, said “this was clearly the influence of Moroun,” the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, and who largely control the Port of Detroit, thanks to a sweetheart deal made with Detroit’s later disgraced and imprisoned mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

However, Senator Peters, who chairs a Senate subcommittee on ports, has pledged to “keep fighting to make sure the Port is treated fairly.” And late last year, another former U.S. Navy officer came to visit and spent much of a day touring the port: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. “We aren’t political and we don’t take sides, but that was something,” said Paul LaMarre. “It wasn’t like a normal political visit. He was interested in everything.”

So, what’s next? Sam Hankinson, the port development coordinator, put it this way: “The future is unwritten, but when it is, Paul LaMarre will be the one holding the pen.”

Jack Lessenberry is a former national editor for The Blade. Contact him at: omblade@aol.com


The original story was published in the Toledo Blade and on Mr. Lessenberry’s personal site, Lessenberry Ink.

Lessenberry: Port of Monroe tugging economy forward | The Blade (toledoblade.com)

The Biggest Local Economic Success Story You Never Knew – Lessenberry Ink

Port of Monroe Aims to Expand Opportunities for Michigan Agriculture

Michigan Soybean Committee and Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance look for new ways to move soybeans on the Saint Lawrence Seaway to benefit soybean growers.

St. Johns, Michigan (May 1, 2024) – Located 25 miles south of Detroit, the Port of Monroe is Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie. The Port’s proximity to both Detroit and Toledo markets, coupled with its convenient access to rail and major highways, highlights not only the massive potential for growth but also the important role the Port plays in the Great Lakes shipping system. The Port is currently undergoing large improvements that will allow it to capitalize on this potential.

The Port was a recipient of a 2022 Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This grant will be utilized to improve port operations by rehabilitating existing facilities and constructing new infrastructure. The PIDP award represents the largest single investment in the Port’s infrastructure since its inception. Between all current projects, over $30 million in federal, state and local funds will be spent to improve the Port’s infrastructure.

As a part of the revitalization, the Port of Monroe is developing the Michigan Maritime Gateway, which will be the first maritime container terminal in the State of Michigan. This state-of-the-art facility will serve as a modern border entry point, revolutionizing logistics in the region and granting unprecedented access to global markets. It will be the inaugural SAFE ACT compliant port in the Great Lakes system, ensuring adherence to the highest standards of security and operational excellence with primary lane x-ray and radiation scanning.

Michigan Soybean Committee (MSC) CEO, Ben Steyer, states “We are looking forward to collaborating with the Port of Monroe to identify strategies that can be used to integrate agricultural commodities into their operations. This partnership signifies an exciting opportunity to enhance the efficiency and diversity of the Port’s activities while bolstering support for local soybean farmers. Together, we aim to explore innovative solutions to optimize logistics and foster economic growth within the agricultural sector and the broader community.”

The Port of Monroe is directly connected to the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Seaway system that connects all five Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean through the Saint Lawrence River. The Saint Lawrence Seaway is currently an underutilized shipping option, running at about half of its potential capacity.

Steve Peach, a Michigan soybean farmer and MSC’s liaison to the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA) recently had the opportunity to tour the Port of Monroe. Steve shared, “We had an opportunity to explore the potential benefits of increasing the Port’s capacity for handling of agricultural products if a container facility is built. Specialty products, including soybeans, that require containerized shipping to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and other markets could take advantage of the Port of Monroe as an efficient and environmentally friendly shipping option.”

As this project continues to develop, the Port and Michigan farmers are discussing how this new facility can work to support our state’s diverse agriculture industry. “The Port of Monroe holds untapped opportunity for Michigan’s agriculture industry, and we are excited to work with MSC and Michigan agribusinesses to leverage our infrastructure to create new supply chain solutions for Michigan-grown agricultural products,” states Port of Monroe Development Coordinator, Samuel Hankinson.



Pictured from lest to right: Shane Frederick (SSGA), Gary Williams (SSGA), Ben Steyer (MSC), Steve Peach (MSC), Sam Hankinson (Port of Monroe), Hanna Campbell (MSC), Eric Wenberg (SSGA) and Max Vekich (Federal Maritime Commission)

2023-24 shipping season at the Port of Monroe defined by recognition and relationships

The Port of Monroe celebrates the close of the 2023/24 shipping season with its established partners and stakeholders, as well as the new partnerships and relationships that have been forged throughout the year. While the 2023 season did not result in overall tonnage increases for the port, it represented another year of success.

Mark W. Barker and the Mythos AI boat Archie.

In July, Port Director Paul C. LaMarre was elected president of the American Great Lakes Ports Association at the organization’s annual meeting. LaMarre also accepted the Port’s seventh Pacesetter award.

Through an innovative partnership with Newlab and Michigan Central in 2023, the Port is providing its facilities to test and scale new technology solutions in the transportation and zero-emission space. The Port’s relationship with Newlab and Michigan Central represents how a public port can engage with startup companies and emerging technologies.

The first pilot project with Newlab commenced in Fall 2023, when the Port partnered with Mythos AI on a hydrographic survey project. Mythos AI is an autonomous maritime technology company developing autonomous solutions for the maritime industry. The data collected by the Mythos vessel Archie will help the Port provide up-to-date information for waterway users.

In Fall 2023, the Port hosted “Heritage Days,” a one-of-a-kind event to celebrate the rich transportation history in Monroe County. The event was held for the community to celebrate the Port of Monroe and would not have been possible without support from sponsors and volunteers. The Port’s flagship, the Great Lakes Towing tug Georgia, was restored to its original name of America during the weekend festivities. Weeks later, the tug performed its first job with its restored name. The America is the oldest commercially operating tugboat in the world.

Check out the full Heritage Days gallery here!

Port Director Paul LaMarre with U. S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The possibilities the Port of Monroe offers has been recognized by many, included top government leadership.

In April 2023, the Port was fortunate to host Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on a tour that highlighted the Port’s role as a transportation hub for renewable energy cargo and the opportunities that the Michigan Maritime Gateway will bring to the entire State of Michigan.

In November, U. S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited Monroe. The Port of Monroe was a recipient of the Port Infrastructure Development Program in 2022, which will provide funds for transformational infrastructure improvements.


A total of 2,432,844 short tons were received to facilities along the River Raisin during the 2023/24 shipping season.

The DTE Monroe Power Plant makes up a majority of that total. The plant received 1,748,541 tons of coal and petroleum coke, as well as 340,924 tons of limestone.

The Port and terminal operator DRM handled 72,577 tons of bulk and 141,065 tons of coiled steel products.

Michigan Paving & Materials received 129,407 tons of liquid asphalt to its Monroe storage and blending facility.


Happy Ranger discharges a transformer generator.

The Port welcomed back the Happy Ranger this season. The specialized heavy-lift vessel discharged a transformer directly to a rail car at the Port’s turning basin dock. The BigLift vessel previously called on the Port in 2019 to deliver a generator stator.

The most frequent visitor to the Port in 2023 was the largest vessel on the Great Lakes, the Paul R. Tregurtha. The Queen of the Lakes logged 28 trips to the DTE Monroe Power Plant. The American Century followed with 16.

The articulated tug/barge Undaunted/Pere Marquette 41 made 11 trips to the Port, and the Harvest Spirit made 9.

Check out this page to see all the ships that visited the Port in 2023!

The 2024 shipping season will be a season of construction for the Port of Monroe. The Port has received over $30 million from local, state, and federal sources to rehabilitate existing facilities and build new infrastructure.

The Port plans to begin construction on its PIDP grant, the Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience project. It will include the rehabilitation of the turning basin dock and riverfront dock, the port’s two main vessel operation areas. It will also include the construction of a second riverfront dock and a small boat slip next to the Port’s main office. Finally, shore power will be installing along the riverfront.

The Port continues to develop the Michigan Maritime Gateway, which will be the first maritime container terminal in the State of Michigan when it opens. The terminal will utilize the equipment necessary to scan and inspect international shipping containers.

Both projects are separate but once complete will enhance the capabilities and efficiencies the Port of Monroe offers. Investment in existing operating areas and the construction of new spaces will allow the port to designate different areas for specific cargoes.

Tug George Gradel passing the Paul R. Tregurtha.

On the horizon
The port is in an excellent position at the conclusion of the 2023 season as infrastructure improvements will soon be underway to completely transform the Port’s operations. Regular activities will continue during the construction.

The Port’s groundbreaking partnership with Newlab and Michigan Central have barely scratched the surface of what is possible, but the relationship represents a global example of how a port can engage with startup companies and emerging technologies to influence innovation.

The Port will continue to pursue opportunities that will benefit the City of Monroe, Monroe County, State of Michigan, and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway while promoting the environmental and economic advantages of Great Lakes shipping.

Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to stay updated on the Port of Monroe in 2024!

Engineering the Port of Monroe

The Port of Monroe, located on the shores of Lake Erie, is undergoing a massive transition. The port is the beneficiary of funding from the federal, state, and local level to increase efficiencies and bring the port into the next generation of Great Lakes shipping.

Background on the port
The Port of Monroe has long been considered a port with massive potential due to its location between Detroit and Toledo and proximity to major markets. In 1927, a group of Monroe citizen formed a group called the industrial commission, which later became the Monroe Port Commission. The commission established the Port of Monroe in 1932.

A $390,000 appropriation from Congress funded harbor improvements that would help the new port capitalize on its maritime potential. A terminal was constructed on the east side of the River Rasin, which included a dock face, warehouse, two building-mounted gantry cranes, and rail spur.

The Monroe Harbor Terminal was completed in 1940, but the port continued to be defined by its potential rather than its activity. While the Port functioned as an import hub for Renault automobiles and a layup destination for United States Steel steamers in the 1960s, commerce into Monroe declined.

The construction of the DTE Monroe Power Plant at the mouth of the River Raisin in the 1970s generated a massive increase in maritime tonnage for the Monroe harbor, but the Port’s facilities further up the River Raisin struggled to generate consistent cargo. Eventually all staff positions were eliminated, including port director, as the Monroe Port Commission could not justify the jobs given the lack of activity.

Everything changed in 2012, when the port commission hired Paul C. LaMarre III from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to reinvigorate maritime operations in Monroe. Under LaMarre’s leadership, the Port of Monroe has rebuilt its image through strategic partnerships and niche cargo operations.

Rebirth and re “berth”
The initial focus for LaMarre was to analyze current supply chains in Monroe and determine if the Port could improve upon or create new transportation solutions. This effort found that synthetic gypsum produced at the DTE Monroe Power Plant was being trucked to a landfill. Through a partnership with DTE and DRM Terminal Management, this same product is being exported from the Port to beneficial reuse markets around the Great Lakes region. This early success story is how Monroe got back on the map.

In order to capitalize on new cargo opportunities, the Port required significant infrastructure upgrades. All that remained of the original terminal complex along the turning basin was the seawall. In 2017, the Port constructed a wharf alongside the River Raisin. The goal of this construction was to build a new cargo handling berth at the Port’s point of deepest draft. The project was financed through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s tax increment financing program.

Current cargoes
Today, the Port handles a number of different commodities. The DTE Monroe Power Plant continues to be the primary tonnage driver in the Monroe harbor, importing loads of coal and limestone and producing the synthetic gypsum and bottom ash byproducts that are exported from the Port’s facilities.

The port receives a large amount of coiled steel products by rail and vessel that are ultimately trucked to regional automotive manufacturers.

Monroe is the only port in the United States to have a wind tower manufacturer located within its complex. Ventower Industries has used the port to ship completed wind towers to domestic and international destinations.

Michigan Paving & Materials operates a large liquid asphalt blending facility at the Port. Michigan Paving is served by a pipeline from the turning basin dock.

The future
An important focus for any port is to identify new cargo opportunities and pursue new business. Great Lakes shipping is in a time of immense change.

Major steelmakers are moving away from basic oxygen furnaces in favor of electric arc furnaces to produce steel, and utilities like DTE Energy are moving away from coal fired power plants in favor of renewable energy sources.

These changes will create a ripple effect in the types of raw materials demanded, materials that have historically been transported by Great Lakes freighters. This has created an increased focus on diversification for ports and maritime transportation companies alike.

These opportunities cannot be fully realized without the proper infrastructure. In the last two years the Port of Monroe has attracted funding from federal, state, and local sources to build out new infrastructure that will strengthen the future of the port, diversify its cargo base, and support its network of partners.

Port Infrastructure Development Program
In October 2022, the Port of Monroe was awarded a Port Infrastructure Development Program grant for its Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience project. Funding for this project was secured by Senator Gary Peters and supported by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, in addition to many other regional and local stakeholders. This grant will help the port rehabilitate its existing facilities and build out new operating areas for future cargo operations.

New riverfront berth
The primary focus of Monroe’s PIDP grant is to reconfigure the port’s operating areas to increase the exports of renewable energy components manufactured at the Port by Ventower Industries. Ventower is the only wind tower manufacturer located at a port in the United States, and their towers have been exported to domestic and international markets.

The Port will construct a second berth on the River Raisin, identical to the existing one, that is dedicated for the handling of wind energy components. The addition of a new asset to be exclusively used in support of Ventower’s operations will increase the Monroe manufacturer’s competitiveness and allow the Port to concentrate its cargo operations in different areas.

The construction of offshore wind farms on the East Coast of the United States are a massive opportunity for Ventower. The tower sections demanded for offshore projects are much larger than the onshore sections that have been moved from Monroe, and the new dock will be capable of handling these larger components.

The Harvest Spirit at the Port’s existing riverfront wharf.

Turning basin dock rehabilitation
What remains of the original terminal along the turning basin continues to be a valuable part of current operations in Monroe. The Port plans to rehabilitate the entire concrete cap of the turning basin dock for future operations. There are three segments to this area; a section of steel sheet pile cells with a concrete face and cap; a section of steel sheet pile cells with a concrete face; and a section of a straight face steel sheet pile wall. The entire concrete cap and concrete face has greatly deteriorated after years of use and will be fully rehabilitated. Also involved in the planned work in this area is the replacement of the straight face steel sheet pile wall located immediately adjacent to the turning basin dock. Failure of the tie-back system in this section exacerbated by many storms and water level changes common on the tumultuous Lake Erie has resulted in the sheet pile wall collapsing in to the water.

The Port’s Turning Basin dock – originally built in the 1930s

Maritime Readiness Slip
In the 1970s, a small slip for personal watercraft was excavated next to the Port of Monroe’s current office building. This slip has deteriorated in condition to the point where further erosion limits its functional use and poses a significant safety and structural risk to the Port of Monroe office building. As a solution, and with the assistance of the PIDP funding, the Port is planning to completely rehabilitate this slip and make it a new operating area at the port. Once rehabilitated, the new “Maritime Readiness Slip” will accommodate fast rescue boats from the local fire and police department, small government vessels, and the Port’s harbor tug. By focusing on this slip, the new construction will sustain the ground near the port office and move smaller vessels to a dedicated area where they do not interfere with commercial vessel operations. This location next to the port office also makes it easier for groups to mobilize in the event of an emergency.

A view of the small boat slip that will be rehabilitated and its proximity to the Port’s main office.

Shore power
Another consideration given to the Port’s PIDP grant was shore power. The Port is currently working with its maritime stakeholders to understand the shore power needs of the different vessels that frequent the Port. The Port will determine a solution with its engineers to allow vessels to connect to shore power at both riverfront wharves as well as the new maritime readiness slip.

PIDP conclusion
Great Lakes ports have been unable to consistently improve and innovate their operations due to lack of available funds, and as a result have been slow to innovate. Vessels have traditionally been the change agents in the Great Lakes maritime industry with the development of self-unloading technology and the continuous improvement of these systems. Not only does the PIDP provide ports a dedicated source of funding to improve and expand operations, but it also allows authorities the opportunity to innovate and develop new solutions for the betterment of the entire maritime industry.

Container terminal – the Michigan Maritime Gateway
Great Lakes ports must consider containerized cargo opportunities in the future as demand for traditional cargoes fluctuate. The Port of Monroe has explored the opportunities associated with container handling for many years and will utilize funds from the City of Monroe, State of Michigan, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and United States Customs and Border Protection to install modern container inspection equipment at a preexisting building at the Port. The result will be the Michigan Maritime Gateway, the first maritime container terminal in the State of Michigan. The MMG will be the first terminal in the United States that will scan 100% of containers and breakbulk with by USCBP non-intrusive technology.

The container terminal is being developed and marketed as a new cargo handling capability for the Port, not as a large-volume container terminal and storage yard. The Port plans to build a niche container service in partnership with Spliethoff of Amsterdam that complements existing terminals on the Great Lakes in Cleveland, Ohio and Duluth, Minnesota. A network of container ports in the Midwest will expand opportunities for domestic short-sea-shipping routes within the Great Lakes. The Port will utilize a Manitowoc crawler crane, purchased with funds from the USDOT Marine Highway Program, to handle containers.

Not only will the Michigan Maritime Gateway provide Monroe County importers and exporters access to new markets, it will create a new supply chain link for the electric vehicle, semiconductor, and renewable energy investments that have been made in Michigan.

The Port of Monroe’s future will include container shipping.


The Port of Monroe is supported in its ongoing projects by the Monroe Port Commission. Engineering services are provided by the exceptional team at DLZ Corporation’s Waterford Office and Torrey Enterprises provides critical grant support.

Future infrastructure projects at the Port of Monroe will be complemented by the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office within the Michigan Department of Transportation. The new office will administer grants that will support and sustain Michigan’s maritime infrastructure. A key function of this state-level assistance program will be serving as the local match for federal grant programs like the Port Infrastructure Development Program. This will allow Michigan, the state with the most ports on the Great Lakes, to secure more federal funds for its diverse network of port facilities.

With over $30 million in grant funding secured from federal, state, and local sources, the Port of Monroe is finally capitalizing on its potential.

This article was written by Port Development Coordinator Samuel C. Hankinson for the January 2024 edition of (mt) magazine published by the Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers (SNAME)

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg tours Port of Monroe

From the Toledo Blade: https://www.toledoblade.com/local/transportation/2023/11/29/buttigieg-visits-port-of-monroe-to-tout-infrastructure-act-funded-project/stories/20231129116

MONROE — Ports like Monroe’s represent “a lot of untapped resources and logistical potential” throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said following a tour Wednesday afternoon of the docks along the River Raisin.

“I’m inspired by the commitment and energy right here at the Port of Monroe,” Secretary Buttigieg said during a post-tour news conference on the wharf where the Tug America, at 126 years the oldest commercially working tugboat in the world, was docked.

Mr. Buttigieg’s visit comes about a year after the U.S. Maritime Administration awarded a $11.1 million grant for improvements to the Monroe port that include wharf expansion and repairs to existing docks.

The port also is using $5 million in state funds to build a marine container terminal scheduled to open during the second half of 2024.

At about 12 acres, the site won’t be anywhere near the size of coastal container ports. But Paul LaMarre III, the port’s director, said it will diversify Monroe’s capabilities and potentially attract higher-value cargoes.

The logistical potential in the Great Lakes and Midwest could be put to greater use, and that potential “is no less important to this country” than coastal ports and shipping, said Mr. Buttigieg, who, before joining the Biden Administration, was mayor of South Bend, Ind., and now calls Traverse City, Mich., home.

Mr. Buttigieg said he scheduled the local visit to call attention to how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed and signed several years ago is now producing results.

“This is shining a light on good work,” he said. “Now we’re seeing the literally concrete example of how it’s put to use.”

The federal funding provides for replacing the surface of an existing wharf and building a second along the River Raisin assigned to handling wind energy equipment; improvements to the turning basin area, including dock repairs, fender and bollard installation, and replacing about 390 feet of failed sheet pile dock face; remodeling a small-boat slip for use by harbor-assist vessels; and installing shore power infrastructure at the riverfront wharves.

The port director played two videos about the port before taking the transportation secretary on a brief tour of its grounds, with stops near the harbor crane, front-end loader, and reacher-stacker and then at the wharf by the tugboat, to which Mr. LaMarre cheekily referred as his “girlfriend.”

Along with the port’s efforts to develop markets for synthetic gypsum and bottom ash from the power plant, he said, neighboring Gerdau Steel has recently shipped some of its bar stock via lake freighters to a grinding-ball mill in Duluth, Minn.

Monroe Mayor Robert Clark said Mr. LaMarre’s success at identifying outbound cargo for ships that bring coal into Monroe has been especially valuable, while the port’s diversification is critical given that Detroit Edison plans to close the plant by 2031.

“We had a port, but it wasn’t operational,” the mayor said of the local harbor’s status when he first took office 14 years ago.

Mr. LaMarre said the Whitmer administration’s recent shepherding of a $5 million maritime program in Michigan was vital to the Monroe port’s ability to obtain federal grant money, to which the state funding serves as the required “local match.”

State funds of $3.2 million, partially matching the $11 million from the federal Port Infrastructure and Development Program, were needed, otherwise, it would have represented three years’ worth of the Monroe port’s entire annual budget, he said.

Mr. Buttigieg, during his time in Monroe, also visited the West Elm Avenue crossing of CSX Transportation railroad tracks, near Telegraph Road, where a $23.9 million federal grant awarded in June will pay for design and construction of an underpass. Construction is scheduled to start in late 2026 or early 2027.


Other coverage

MSNBC: Sec. Buttigieg: ‘We are not about the chaos and the drama’ (Port of Monroe is mentioned at the 4:45 mark of the video)

WTOL11: Transportation Secretary Buttigieg visits Port of Monroe after announcement of $11 million for infrastructure improvements

Michigan Radio: Transportation Secretary Buttigieg tours Michigan’s fast-growing Port of Monroe


Photo Credits: Chris Winters

Newlab & Mythos AI Launch In-Shore Autonomous Boat Pilot to Revolutionize Maritime Shipping

Sourced from Business Wire: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20231102767667/en/Newlab-Mythos-AI-Launch-In-Shore-Autonomous-Boat-Pilot-to-Revolutionize-Maritime-Shipping
DETROIT–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Newlab, an innovation platform for deep tech startups, today announced Mythos AI as the first participant for its Multimodal Logistics Challenge – a coalition of startups, industry leaders and government agencies working to improve efficiency and resilience in supply chains through groundbreaking pilot projects.

Mythos AI is advancing maritime commerce by mapping marine highways while simultaneously training algorithms for self-driving in-shore vessels. Together with Newlab, the Port of Monroe, and Michigan Central, the company is conducting an 8-week pilot to map the port berths and anchorages at the Port of Monroe—a strategic waterway that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean—which will create a digital twin of the region and expose the machine learning to waterway-specific conditions.

The ultimate goal of these advancements is to create automated marine highways, which are the key to increasing port efficiency, lowering maritime carbon emissions, and creating supply chain resilience. Disaggregated marine shipping will use smaller boats, rivers, and in-land waterways to move goods more efficiently and resolve bottlenecks.

“The Great Lakes-St Lawrence System is one of the most complex marine highway networks in the world, thus making us a prime test platform for innovative maritime technologies,” said Port of Monroe Port Director Paul LaMarre. “Newlab’s development process is facilitating new relationships with startups that will allow us to transform our Port facilities into a living lab for the future of logistics. Our pilot with Mythos AI has immediately enhanced our situational awareness of our waterway while providing critical data for real-time navigation and engineering applications.”

Newlab’s Multimodal Logistics Challenge is tackling historical underinvestment in transportation infrastructure. In partnership with cutting-edge startups like Mythos AI, Newlab is driving supply chain resilience by establishing sustainable transportation nodes that create critical redundancy across supply chains.

“Ports are critical logistics nodes that must remain at the forefront of technological advancement to keep up with the rise in shipping and maritime activity,” said Sahil Jain, Director of Strategy at Newlab. “By digitizing and automating port infrastructure and operations, we can achieve a transformative shift towards decentralized and decarbonized multi-modal logistics. This pilot at the Port of Monroe is the first step to accelerating the utilization of marine highways for sustainable and scalable freight movement.”

“This pilot demonstrates the potential we unlock by extending the Michigan Central-Newlab testing network over land, air, and maritime mobility nodes throughout the region,” said Matt Whitaker, Michigan Central’s Director, Mobility Innovation Platform. “Bringing Mythos AI and the Port of Monroe together not only advances sustainable, real-world mobility solutions, it also drives economic development for our communities.”

“Self-driving vessel technology will reshape maritime logistics,” said Mythos AI CEO Geoff Douglass. “Scaling this innovation to other ports will transform antiquated systems, reduce emissions, and drive economic growth on a global scale. Our partnership with Newlab has been instrumental to getting us the access we need to derisk this technology much quicker than we would have been able to on our own.”

To read more and join Newlab’s Multimodal Logistics Challenge, visit our website at: https://www.newlab.com/opencalls/expanding-multi-modal-logistics-to-drive-supply-chain-resilience

About Newlab

Newlab creates the conditions for world-changing ideas to become real-world solutions. Through its community of startups, applied innovation programming, physical infrastructure, and direct investment, Newlab helps commercialize and scale the critical technologies needed to decarbonize the economy. Today, Newlab includes more than 1000 entrepreneurs, partnerships with forward-thinking corporate and civic entities, and a network of active investors—all working together to scale hard tech. To date, Newlab has supported its 300+ member companies in raising over $2B in capital from 260 venture capital firms, with over $1.8B of successful exits and a collective valuation of over $5B. Visit www.newlab.com to learn more.

About Mythos AI

Mythos AI is a marine autonomy company founded by an exemplary team bringing experience from self-driving teams from silicon valley. The U.S. based company is developing autonomous vessel technologies to address severe vulnerabilities in the supply chain and marine transportation. The company’s entry to market product is state-of-the-art self-driving vessel technology that delivers real-time navigation data, eliminating delays and inefficiencies in port and shipping operations while training self-driving to address the staggering shortage of skilled mariners that is crippling the industry. Mythos’ cutting-edge technology will automate marine transportation unlocking new revenue models for ports, cost savings for shipping companies and unrivaled operational efficiency across the supply chain.

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”