Seaway ports see cargo volumes set for rebound

Source: MarineLog

While St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes decreased during the past two months due to economic shifts related to COVID-19, the Chamber of Marine Commerce reports industry leaders as saying that the Seaway is ready to play its part in the economic recovery efforts in the coming months.

Overall, St. Lawrence Seaway tonnage from March 15 through May 31 totaled 7.7 million metric tons, down 10% compared to the same time period in 2019. Road salt and project cargo shipments such as wind turbine components have remained strong throughout the last two months. However, cargo volumes of steel-related materials, construction materials, and petroleum declined.

“Great Lakes-Seaway shipping has continued to get the job done during these challenging times, safely delivering vital grain, renewable energy supplies and manufacturing inputs for domestic needs and world markets,” says Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “Ship operators, ports, suppliers and the Seaway operators have really pulled together to put protective measures in place for our workers and the public and to ensure our transportation system has continued to operate throughout the pandemic without interruption or delay for our customers. Moving forward, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping is ready to support ongoing efforts to restart the U.S. economy.”

DRY BULK DOWN, GENERAL CARGO UP

Dry bulk cargo shipments on the Seaway were down 5%. However, one of the first areas of improvement expected in cargo volumes are construction materials as pandemic-related restrictions continue to be lifted.

Year-to-date general cargo shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway, including project cargo like wind turbine components and aluminum, were up 3.5%.

The Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor has received 15 shipments of wind turbine components over the last two months. “We expect at least 10 more shipments of U.S.-built wind tower sections moving by deck barge from Manitowoc, Wis., down to Burns Harbor. These will be coupled with nacelles, hubs and blades being produced in Europe that are arriving into Burns Harbor via the Seaway,” says Ian Hirt, Port Director for the Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor. “We are also expecting several vessels containing components for gas-powered electrical generation stations that are being constructed in the area. These are emblematic of a shift in energy production in the region away from coal-powered electricity.”

Tonnage at the Port of Toledo was down 12% in May compared to May 2019 which is attributed to COVID-19, flooding and poor grain harvest last fall.

“Our grain shipments are down significantly, but we’re hoping a good 2020 harvest will help us make up for some of the loss at the end of the season,” says Joseph Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted construction and manufacturing and the associated demand for raw material and petroleum products. We expect that as the economy continues to recover, the recovery will be reflected in our tonnage numbers.”

The bright spot for Toledo in May was general cargo, which is up over 225% from last year. “We have handled a tremendous amount of aluminum at the general cargo facility so far in 2020,” says Cappel. “Smelters continue to produce aluminum and the Port of Toledo is a strategic location where metals can be stored and rapidly deployed into the marketplace when conditions are right.”

At the Port of Duluth-Superior, general cargo and grain had strong showings, but other tonnage categories were impacted by the pandemic.

“May was an especially difficult month in the Port of Duluth-Superior, with effects of the coronavirus slowing the tonnage pace in each major cargo category,” says Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Through May 31, total tonnage trailed the 2019 pace by 28.5%, led by a sharp decline in coal tonnage due primarily to diminished demand from power plants on the lower Great Lakes. Iron ore, the port’s perennial tonnage leader, also slipped in May, ended the month 6% behind last season’s pace.

On a brighter note, grain tonnage finished May almost 26% ahead of the 2019 pace and 39% ahead of the five-season average. General cargo tonnage also registered an increase, closing the month approximately 9% ahead of last season and 11.5% above the five-season average.”

TRADE WITH 22 COUNTRIES

The U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said that U.S. Seaway ports traded with 22 countries during the first two months of the navigation season, recording particularly noteworthy increases in project cargo, even though overall tonnage was down 10.2% compared to this time last year.

“In times like these, it is reassuring to see our ports in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System working hard to keep the supply chain moving. The Great Lakes Seaway marine transportation system is critical infrastructure, and remains vital to keeping commerce flowing without disruption in order to support North America’s agricultural, manufacturing, construction, energy, and mining industries,” said Craig H. Middlebrook, deputy administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

WIND ENERGY COMPONENTS SOARING

With an increased focus on commodity diversification through project cargo, international shipments of wind energy components in the Great Lakes region are taking off. During the first two months of the 2020 navigation season, shiploads of wind-related components were handled across five Great Lakes states at eight American ports, including: Port of Monroe, Port of Erie, Port of Buffalo, Port of Ogdensburg, Port of Bay City, Port of Menominee, Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor and Port of Chicago.

Attracting new business through wind-related cargos and Seaway activity, both Port of Monroe and Port of Buffalo are benefiting from notable increases in shipping traffic.

“If there was a single word to describe the Port of Monroe, it would be resilient,” said Paul C. LaMarre III, Port Director, Port of Monroe. “Everything we have done puts relationships and the broader industry as a whole first. I believe, if you build the relationships, the cargo will follow it.”

Of these relationships, this navigation season brings to light a particularly impactful partnership between the Port of Monroe, Spliethoff Group’s BigLift Shipping, and Ventower Industry—one of four wind tower manufacturers in the United States—all working together to move, handle and manufacture wind towers for a General Electric project based in Michigan.

The Port of Monroe now welcomes BigLift’s M/V Happy River on a nonstop shuttle delivering wind tower sections manufactured in Bécancour, Quebec every eight days. To date, the M/V Happy River has completed three voyages to Monroe—with eleven more planned—carrying forty wind tower sections per trip.

“The wind project and the tower sections are the lifeblood of our port this season,” said LaMarre.

Similarly, the Port of Buffalo is off to a strong start, filling its docks a total of 32 days since its navigation season began on April 12. To date, the port has welcomed three Seaway shipments of wind turbine components—two from Germany and one from Korea—and is expecting two more in the coming week.

Five U.S. Great Lakes ports win SLSDC awards

Source: Maritime Magazine

The U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation(SLSDC) has announced that five U.S. ports in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System received the agency’s Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award for registering increases in international cargo tonnage shipped through their ports during the 2019 navigation season. The winners are the Port of Chicago, Duluth Seaway Port Authority, Port of Green Bay, Port of Oswego and Michigan’s Port of Monroe (pictured in photo).

“The St. Lawrence Seaway and its ports are vital to America’s freight transportation network, job creation and economic growth,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“Congratulations to the five Great Lakes ports being recognized as Pacesetter Award recipients for their achievements during the 2019 Seaway navigation season,” said SLSDC’s Deputy Administrator Craig H. Middlebrook. “The dedicated teams of professionals at our ports work hard to move increasing amounts of cargo safely and efficiently.”

The SLSDC Pacesetter Award 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. More than 237,000 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity are supported annually by movement of various cargoes on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System. (photo Port of Monroe)

Worth A Thousand Words

Port director shares passion with award-winning photographs.

Paul LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe, captured this photo of the Interlake Steamship Company’s M/ V Hon. James L. Oberstar. The photo is part of a package of LaMarre’s pictures that was awarded first place in the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership’s second annual photo contest. [COURTESY PHOTOS BY PAUL LAMARRE III]

 

Paul LaMarre III knows that a picture really is worth a thousand words.

The director of the Port of Monroe has a passion for the freighters, tugboats and barges that traverse the unforgiving waters of the Great Lakes. It’s a love that he inherited from his father, Paul LaMarre Jr. It’s an affection that was fostered by a lifetime around the water.

Like his father, LaMarre also has a passion for sharing his love of these vessels through his artwork. The port director was honored recently by the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership, which awarded a package of his photos with the first- place prize in their second annual photo contest.

Two of the winning photos were of the Interlake Steamship Company’s M/ V. Hon. James L. Oberstar, while the third was a picture of the M/ V. Gagliarda unloading at the Port of Monroe on her maiden Seaway voyage. Several other photos taken by LaMarre received honorable mention recognition.

“ It’s a blessing to have the access that allows me the opportunity to try to bring people closer to the action, let’s say,” LaMarre said. “ Everybody has their own unique niche. My niche has been getting vessels underway, open lake, which nobody else has really been doing.”

LaMarre has been photographing ships since he was 5. His father is a renowned figure in the Great Lakes maritime industry and an accomplished painter and photographer of the lakes and the vessels that call them home.

“ I always say to this day, even at the port, I just want to be like my dad when I grow up and make him proud,” LaMarre said. “ I can tell you that I am as excited to show my dad a good boat picture that I have captured today as I was when I was a little kid.”

The tools LaMarre uses today to capture his breathtaking images are a far cry from the clunky cameras of his childhood. LaMarre uses a drone- mounted camera to capture photos of vessels underway.

“ Right now there’s only myself and one other guy who are getting the pictures with the drone off of a moving platform,” he said. “I was the first one to do it, fly it off a moving ship or tug and then have to recover it when you’re still on your way.”

 

Paul LaMarre III was just 5 when he started photographing boats. The director of the Port of Monroe recently won first place in the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership’s second annual photo contest.

 

While LaMarre’s unique technique allows him the opportunity to obtain truly one of- a- kind images, it’s not without its risks. LaMarre said he’s on his fifth drone and he’s ruined countless sets of propeller blades as he’s worked to fine- tune the process.

“ Some SD cards are at the bottom of Lake Erie and Lake Huron at this point,” he said. “ It is nerve- wracking every time that you recover the drone when you’re in the middle of the lake and you just had it out hundreds, if not thousands of feet from the ship. To get it back aboard has not come without a very challenging learning curve, which could include almost taking your finger off or almost taking your head off and going through a lot of propeller blades.

“ In the beginning, the best bet was to just get the drone above the vessel and drop it.”

The first time LaMarre successfully utilized his drone system was aboard the Oberstar in 2018. The ship holds a special place in his heart. He and his wife are good friends with not only its current owner, captain and crew, but also William Snyder III, the man who in 1959 was commissioned to build the vessel that was then known as the Shenango II.

LaMarre and his wife have taken two leisure trips on the Oberstar, which is when he took his award-winning photographs of the vessel.

 

Paul LaMarre III’s award-winning photograph of the M/ V Gagliarda as it unloads at the Port of Monroe on its maiden Seaway voyage. [COURTESY PHOTOS BY PAUL LAMARRE III]

 

“That boat is so special to me,” he said “It means a great deal, and I hope to capture the best images of her sailing career. She’s the only ship that I’d really take a trip on that was, quite frankly, for my own enjoyment because that connection to that vessel is so special. She’s the one.”

Through his photography, LaMarre hopes to share his passion for ships with people who are not able to have the intimate relationship with the Great Lakes that he has enjoyed his entire life. To that end, he posts at least one photo a day to his Facebook page to continue to engage residents interested in the Port of Monroe.

“ We are very limited in our ability to grant access to interested and enthusiastic members of the community, because of security restrictions now more than ever,” he said. “ Ultimately it’s Monroe’s port, and my goal is to consistently operate a purely public agency as a nonprofit, and to do it in a manner that we drive transportation- related cargo and commerce that creates jobs and generates tax revenue that will hopefully lead to a better quality of life for the citizens of Monroe.

“ I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to lead this organization, (and) to do something I feel is upholding family tradition and history and then at the same time serve (the) community.”

“ It’s a very humbling and fortunate position to be in,” he added.

 

Paul LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe, captured this photo of the Interlake Steamship Company’s M/ V Hon. James L. Oberstar. The photo is part of a package of LaMarre’s pictures that was awarded first place in the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership’s second annual photo contest.

 

 

Source: Monroe Evening News

How Great Lakes freighter crews are social distancing on board, and on shore

Source: mLIVE

How do you practice social distancing in this era of coronavirus when you’re part of a Great Lakes freighter crew? With a special set of rules, shipping leaders say.

New protocols and precautionary measures are taking place on ships across the Great Lakes where crews are moving through more than 100 ports this shipping season, according to the Associated Press.

James Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers Association, said the shipping industry has rolled out its own set of safeguards aimed at prevention. Freighter crews are following hygiene and social distancing guidelines set by health experts.

“Not only are there formal ramifications, but there is a very informal peer pressure among our sailors that will keep people from doing anything that is unsafe and potentially cause spread,” Weakley said, according to the AP.

The Lake Carriers Association is made up of 46 American vessels that each year haul 90 million tons of cargo annually across the Great Lakes.

A few week ago, at the start of the 2020 shipping season, Weakley talked about the preparations being made. His comments were put on the LCA website:

“Since February, a tremendous team focus has gone into getting the fleet outfitted and sailing safely with healthy crews. This has been a truly concerted effort by the sailors, the vessel operators, U.S. Coast Guard, Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, public health officials, the Great Lakes dock and port operators, and service providers that keep our fleet sailing. Our first priority is the men and women sailing the vessels. Our efforts are focused on preparedness, prevention, and response to ensure their safety from the impacts of COVID-19. We’ve tried to anticipate as many contingencies as possible and prescribe the actions to counter them. This is a community effort and the partnerships we have forged are strong. The best plans are comprehensive and nimble.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is monitoring these ships as well as any international cargo vessels, especially if they’ve been in an area of the world affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in the last couple weeks.

Petty Officer Brian McCrum, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 9th District which oversees the Great Lakes region, said these ships will be allowed to enter the U.S. only if they are not carrying sick crew members.

In addition, all crew members must stay on board these ships unless they are involved in loading or unloading cargo, or getting provisions, the AP reported.

View From The Ship

M/V HONORABLE JAMES L. OBERSTAR ON A PELLET RUN 32

Source: Great Lakes Seaway Review – Volume 48 – Number 3 – January-March

The most common view of vessels sailing the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway is from the shore. But sailing shows both the beauty and economic impact of these vessels. Here is an excerpt of Paul C. LaMarre III’s recent pellet run. Thanks to my friends at The Interlake Steamship Company, I was able to take a shipboard retreat on the M/V Honorable James L. Oberstar, or the “Honorable,” as she is sometimes called. This fine ship’s existence is a floating testament to an age of industrial beauty when man and steel united in a form that can only be described as “iron elegance.” The pride with which she was built is apparent in the care she continues to receive today. Boarding during the final hours of October 12, the glowing lights of AK Steel illuminate the Oberstar as she unloads taconite pellets onto the same dock Henry Ford constructed for receiving similar shipments at the turn of the century. Holds emptied, she heads out the winding Rouge River at daybreak under the command of Captain Joseph C. Ruch, on one of the final voyages of his 30-year sailing career. Heading north past industrial Detroit, across Lake St. Clair, toward Lake Huron and the St. Clair River, Honorable is at home, echoing each shoreside wave with a master’s solute. All’s quiet as she plies the blue water expanse of Lake Huron. When the sun peeks through the clouds October 14 following a morning storm, Detour Reed Light passes port side, marking entrance to the St. Marys River. Sliding past mission point where shipwatchers abound, we turn for the locks where the 806-foot ship raises 21 feet. Within a short time, we were passing Gros Cap Reef Light and entering the “Big Lake.” Squalling weather breaks to a rainbow. Soon the moon is lighting our way to Marquette, where we’ll load the next 31,000 tons of iron ore pellets and depart for the downbound return to offload what will make the steel that helps build our toasters, cars, offices and parking decks. While my personal holds are filled for another year, a picture is worth a thousand words. May these images provoke the inspiration that keeps your engine turning.

Paul C. LaMarre III, Port Director, Port of Monroe

 

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Great Lakes Ports Work On Building Cargo Diversity

Project cargo’s growing diversification role

Throughout the vast Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system in the United States and Canada, most ports seek to diversify their customer base by developing new business beyond traditional bulk markets. Front and center in their efforts are project cargoes, especially wind energy components destined to meet the rising demands of utilities. On the horizon, too, is a project in Ohio that could soon become the first offshore wind facility in the Great Lakes.

 

Wind energy has been a key component of the Port of Duluth’s diversification strategy.

Wind Energy Powers Diversification

At the Port of Duluth, the top tonnage port on the Great Lakes (32 million metric tons), the Clure Public Marine Terminal handles high-value general cargo as well as project and dimensional cargoes.

Deb DeLuca, port director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, recently stated that “cargo diversity is important to any port and its catchment area. A mix of cargo spells economic stability.”

The port on Lake Superior along the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin has strong expectations for 2020 after shattering a wind energy cargo record last year. In total, Duluth welcomed 306,000 tons of wind energy cargo in 2019. This eclipsed the previous summit of 302,000 tons in 2008. Duluth Cargo Connect managed the unloading, storage and dispatch of the cargo to various sites in the Midwest.

Such a banner performance was termed “no accident” by DeLuca. “We’ve made more than $25 million in strategic investments to the terminal in the past four years, enhancements that help support the excellent work Duluth Cargo Connect does in handling these oversize wind cargoes.”

Indeed, the tower sections are long, but the blades are even longer – with some well past 200 feet.

“Wind energy has been an important part of our cargo portfolio, dating back to our first shipments more than a decade ago,” noted Jonathan Lamb, president of Duluth Cargo Connect. “As the farthest inland port in North America, we’re geographically well situated to support wind farm installations in the Upper Midwest and central Canada. We pride ourselves in providing a seamless connection between modes of transportation for our wind energy customers.”

Strapped for space and needing more laydown area, the port is adding 50,000 square feet of warehouse space and rebuilding two dock walls at a cost of $21 million, with construction planned for 2021-2023. Beyond wind components, Lamb says that Clure Terminal is targeting dimensional cargoes including transformers, reactors, pressure vessels and similar equipment serving mining, manufacturing, and oil and gas industries.

A number of U.S. Great Lakes ports are developing reputations for the efficient handling of project and heavy lift cargo. The Port of Bay City, Michigan on Lake Huron handled five wind energy cargoes in 2019. And the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor handled one of the more unique project cargoes in 2019 when it moved two huge rubber-tired gantry cranes (RTG) from the port to the CSX Intermodal Terminals’ facility in nearby Chicago. The 68-piece cargo arrived at the Indiana port in June aboard the HC Melina and was discharged from the vessel by Federal Marine Terminal’s (FMT) shore crane for transport to the CSX Intermodal Terminals’ Bedford Park facility, which handles domestic and international freight.

Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor

Ian Hurt of the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, said FMT, the general cargo stevedore at the port, could perform two-crane lifts of nearly 200 metric tons, or 440,000 pounds, nearing the top of any port’s capabilities in the U.S. Great Lakes or Canada. “Intermodal transport requires all modes to work together seamlessly, and the gantry crane shipment is an example of the efficient transportation attributes and its connectivity in the Midwest,” Hirt explained.

At the Port of Monroe, Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie, coal remains the top commodity, but Port Director Paul Lamarre III has been a strong proponent of cargo diversity. And this strategy’s success is borne out by growing imports of project cargo and exports of wind tower sections manufactured at the port. More than a dozen BigLift vessels carrying wind components are expected in 2020.

 

More than a dozen BigLift vessels are expected at Port of Monroe in 2020.

 

Project cargo and heavy machinery are also handled at such ports as Detroit, Toledo and, of course, Cleveland where the Cleveland-Europe Express service operated by Spliethoff has concluded its sixth season hauling containers and breakbulk cargo between Cleveland and Antwerp.

David Gutheil, chief commercial officer of the Port of Cleveland, told the American Journal of Transportation that the port handles a significant amount of non-containerized steel, heavy lift, heavy machinery and capital equipment. Customers include General Electric, Siemens and Alcoa. He welcomed the contribution of Logistec, which has completed its first year as the general cargo terminal operator.

Proposed Offshore Wind Project on Lake Erie

Looking several years down the road, Gutheil evoked the big potential for the Port of Cleveland of a proposed offshore wind project on the shores of Lake Erie that would constitute the first freshwater wind farm in North America. Known as Icebreaker Wind, the $126 million pilot project consists of six 3.45MW turbines located 8 miles north of Cleveland. LEEDCo, a non-profit PPP, is co-developing the project with Norwegian equity investor Fred Olsen Renewables. Cleveland Public Power has committed to buying 63% of output over 16 years.

The project has won federal approval and has encountered no major public opposition (a good measure of public support, in fact). Assuming the Ohio Power Siting Board gives the green light, possibly by this spring, construction could start in 2021 and commercial operation in 2022. Ultimately, analysts suggest it could transform Ohio into a regional offshore wind-supply chain hub.

“We see much potential for us as a staging center for the energy components,” Gutheil told AJOT.

New Laydown Areas Benefit Canadian Ports

Meanwhile, officials at the U.S. and Canadian Seaway corporations are continuing to put strong emphasis on the Great Lakes/Seaway System as a non-congested and strategically-located alternative to gateways on the U.S. East Coast and Gulf for project and heavy lift cargoes.

Among Canadian ports on the Great Lakes, the newly-merged Lake Ontario ports of Hamilton and Oshawa (now called the Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority, or HOPA) are continuing to develop project cargo and breakbulk business.

 

Spliethoff has completed six years of its Cleveland-Europe Express service.

 

On the tip of Lake Superior, the investments by the Port of Thunder Bay (mainly a grain export gateway) on a new laydown area, railway yard as well as a new warehouse scheduled for completion this May are paying off with two large wind turbine projects in Western Canada slated to use the port’s Keefer Terminal for oversized cargo.

We are also handling more structural steel and railway track for Western Canada as a result of our new laydown area,” indicated Tim Heney, chief executive of the Thunder Bay Port Authority.

Another Canadian port focused on bulk shipping that has significantly diversified its customer base due to investments in bigger laydown areas is Johnstown in eastern Ontario. Last year, it welcomed 13 multi-purpose vessels carrying 29 full sets of turbines for a regional wind farm. The laydown areas have likewise accommodated steel construction beams, and steel pipes will start later this year.

 

Source: American Journal of Transportation

No good explanation for Michigan port policy

Source: Toledo Blade

DETROIT — Want an example of a major scandal that has been almost completely under the radar? The Detroit office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection has adopted a bizarre policy that is severely harming trade revenue in the state, and which has had devastating consequences for the Port of Monroe.

That policy is this: The vast majority of international cargo these days is shipped in large containers — and the Detroit office of the CBP is now requiring those metal shipping containers to be X-rayed and scanned for security reasons before they can go out or come in. But no port in the state has the equipment to do that, so the state is effectively shut out of most international trade. This is a policy, according to Paul LaMarre III, the head of the Port of Monroe, that is leveled only against Michigan.

“What to me is most clear is that this should be a non-political, non-partisan regulatory issue,” said Mr. LaMarre, who became leader of the Monroe port in 2012 after years as maritime affairs manager for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “And this is a clear abuse of regulatory authority.”

Mr. LaMarre, a 39-year-old former U.S. Navy pilot, has worked hard to expand the Port of Monroe, with considerable success. Last year, a University of Michigan study found that the number of jobs created by the port tripled under his stewardship, going from 577 to 1,659, meaning millions of dollars for the local economy. But then came the decision to forbid containers.

Voters line up to vote at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Jack Lessenberry
Michigan faces election challenges with absentee votes
That was bad for all Michigan’s 40 ports, but worst of all for Monroe. Though less than an hour’s drive from Detroit, the port is technically outside Detroit’s jurisdiction, according to boundaries set by the Federal Register.

Because Monroe has no customs unit, Detroit has provided cargo inspection as a “courtesy if they have the manpower available.” For years, that wasn’t a problem. But now, whenever a key shipment of goods is about to exit or enter through Monroe, no manpower seems to be available.

“This has cost us [and the community] millions,” said Mr. LaMarre. What normally happens is that the cargo is either diverted to Toledo’s port, which is 14 miles from Monroe’s, or to Cleveland.

The authorities in charge of U.S. customs for Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin are based in Chicago — and have far more lenient rules than Michigan’s, which are the tightest in the nation. Christopher Perry, the CBP’s program manager in Detroit, sets the state’s customs rules. He is paid $166,218 a year. He has repeatedly refused media requests to explain his policy and has reportedly been vague about security needs.

No cargo has been halted from leaving or entering — it is just sent or received via different ports, hurting the state’s economy, and in some cases, adding costs to the consumer.

The University of Michigan conducted a major study on the effects of these policies last year, in which researchers looked at the impact of two glaring examples. In one case, Ford Motor Co. wanted to ship new Mustang cars from Monroe to Hamburg, Germany.

This would have meant revenues for the port and saved money for the automaker. But just weeks before the first 100 cars were to be shipped, Detroit customs officials told Ford that they could not guarantee that an agent would be there to inspect the containers. The project collapsed.

Another major project involved the shipment of huge amounts of equipment to the Port of Monroe that would be trucked to Grayling, where Arauco is erecting a factory. Initially the project was approved — but the Detroit office of the CBP announced it would deny entry just before the first ship arrived. The ship was diverted to Cleveland. Mr. LaMarre then got a barge and a tug and brought that shipment to Monroe, but the rest were canceled.

“They keep moving the target, but we are still developing new markets and doing our best to stay competitive,” he said.

The Detroit Customs and Border Patrol seems to be engaged in vindictive retaliation against one of the Monroe port’s biggest defenders, Gregg Ward, owner of the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry. Some months ago, the CBP sent teams with a slow mobile X-ray unit to his ferry, which takes trucks with hazardous material across the Detroit River daily.

“They are inspecting, with a slow mobile X-ray unit, 100 percent of our vehicles,” delaying transit and costing him business, Mr. Ward said. “It is pure harassment. At the Ambassador Bridge they X-ray no car traffic going to Canada and less than 10 percent of commercial vehicles entering the United States.”

Mr. LaMarre’s take: “They are trying to put him out of business. Gregg Ward is one of the finest and most honest men I know.”

What is clear is this: Monroe, and the state of Michigan, are losing millions of dollars because of a seemingly senseless and arbitrary customs rule that exists in no other state. And nobody in government has satisfactorily explained why.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, have called on the Government Accountability Office to launch a study on cargo screening standards.

Source: The Monroe News

A bipartisan partnership representing Monroe County is continuing to make waves in an ongoing regulatory dispute between a local agency and the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, have called on the Government Accountability Office to launch a study on cargo screening standards that they contend to be inconsistent across the country.

“We have received reports that (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol) is not applying a consistent standard at ports of entry across the United States for screening requirements for non-containerized cargo, including for ports in Michigan,” Walberg and Peters wrote in their letter.

The duo submitted an official inquiry and call to action to Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the U.S. The letter, in which they ask Dodaro and GAO to launch a review of their claim, was submitted to the agency Monday.

The GAO is a nonpartisan federal agency that acts as a fiscal “watchdog,” often rendering recommendations and delivering information to Congress on a wide scope of issues.

For several years Walberg and Peters have been working with the Port of Monroe to address policies levied by CBPs Detroit office on handling break bulk cargo, which is cargo packaged outside of shipping containers.

CBP Detroit has demanded Monroe invest an additional $5 million in security upgrades and that break bulk cargo moving through the port receive complete scanning and inspection from CBP. But CBP Detroit has said it cannot dedicate with regularity the manpower needed to do so, citing limited resources.

The policies have hampered the ability of the port to operate in the international cargo business, costing it and the region millions in revenue, according to a recent study.

Per federal regulations, containerized cargo is required to receive full scanning.

But CBP Detroit has extended that standard to break bulk cargo, and has quelled business agreements at the Monroe port.

It’s a stark contrast to other ports, such as the ports of Toledo and Cleveland, where standards are more lax and where additional time has been given to meet federal standards. The Ohio ports are under a different CBP jurisdiction, too — they are subject to CBP’s Chicago office.

The discrepancy in security standards form the backbone of the legislators’ complaint. In their inquiry, they ask GAO to determine whether shipping standards are being equally enforced at ports of entry across the country.

Walberg and Peters are also asking GAO to clarify what types of cargo are subject to complete scanning requirements as mandated by federal policy and also to determine if CBP has conducted risk analyses on handling break bulk cargo from international ports.

In their letter to Dodaro, they highlight the importance of the shipping industry and its economic impact on the region and the country. They also point to an unequal business environment forged by varying levels of cargo scrutiny.

“CBP’s inconsistent approach gives a strategic advantage to some ports while placing burdensome infrastructure requirements on other ports, such as demands from CBP to purchase expensive scanning equipment that is provided by the federal government at other points of entry,” Walberg and Peters wrote.

The official inquiry to Dodaro and his office is just the latest move made by Walberg and Peters, who have held a series of meetings with officials, many of which have been attended by Port Director Paul LaMarre III.

Peters brokered a meeting between port officials and high-ranking members of CBP last year. Walberg also brought the issue to the attention of President Donald Trump, who indicated its an issue he wanted to hear more about.

That led to a meeting earlier this month with Walberg, LaMarre and Peter Navarro, senior advisor to the president and director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.

During the meeting, LaMarre was able to discuss the Port of Monroe’s dealing with CBP and the adverse impact its policies has had on the port.

LaMarre is heartened by the bipartisan work between Walberg and Peters. The issue of shipping has a wide impact on the entire state, he said.

“This is about honesty and equity,” LaMarre said. “It is about the men and women working on our docks and the crews of our vessels. It is about Michiganders’ strive for prosperity from the waterways that define us.”

Despite CBP’s restrictions, the Monroe port has been able to grow its international business, though it cannot handle non-crated or containerized cargo, according to LaMarre, who said 2019 was a record year for the port.

He anticipates that trend to continue into this year, despite its business being stymied by restrictions.

“We will not relent; we will continue to seek truth,” LaMarre said “Not just for the Port of Monroe, but for our community, all Michigan ports and the Great Lakes as a whole.”

LaMarre is hopeful GAO’s investigation will offer a clear, definitive answer.

“Why are Michigan Ports being treated differently than anywhere else in the United States?” LaMarre questioned. “They have evaded this question for months. It is time for the GAO to find out why.”

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Senator, U.S. rep call on feds to examine security inconsistencies that hamper Michigan ports

Source: Crain’s Detroit Business

Frustrated with progress in their attempts to get the Detroit field office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to treat Michigan ports the same way other Great Lakes and ocean ports are treated, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Rep. Tim Walberg have called on the federal Government Accounting Office to study inconsistencies in cargo screening standards.

“CBP’s inconsistent approach gives a strategic advantage to some ports while placing burdensome infrastructure requirements on other ports, such as demands from CBP to purchase expensive scanning equipment that is provided by the federal government at other points of entry,” they wrote in a letter dated Feb. 24 to Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the U.S. in the GAO.

“Other coastal and Great Lakes ports have not been subjected to the same strict screening requirements,” said a news release accompanying the letter. “The change in requirements has severely impacted the Port of Monroe’s operations and undermines Michigan’s economic competitiveness.”

On Dec. 8, a Crain’s report detailed how stricter policies for Michigan ports have affected job creation and income for ports, focusing on the Port of Monroe. The Detroit office of CBP, which sets rules for Michigan ports, requires shipping containers to be scanned and X-rayed. However, none of Michigan’s 40 ports has the technology to meet those requirements, effectively shutting the state out of the growing volume of shipping container traffic on the Great Lakes.

Many cargo ships unload at the Port of Toledo, instead, just 17 miles from the Port of Monroe. The Chicago office of CBP oversees ports in Ohio and has far more lenient rules than the Detroit office.

According to a University of Michigan study of port activity highlighted in the Crain’s report, the rules established by the Detroit office of CBP have created millions of dollars in docking and unloading fees in Toledo and Cleveland and has cost Michigan hundreds of jobs. The Detroit office also has stricter screening requirements for what is called break-bulk cargo, which is cargo wrapped or boxed but not in steel containers.

Toledo doesn’t have scanning or X-ray equipment, either. The Port of Cleveland has two radiation scanners but no X-ray equipment.

Last August, a ship arrived in Saginaw with cargo to be offloaded for a power plant under construction in Lansing. The Detroit office of CBP wouldn’t let it be unloaded, so the ship sailed back to Toledo, where the cargo was unloaded without being X-rayed or scanned, put on trucks and driven to Lansing.

Last November, Paul LaMarre, the director of the Port of Monroe, joined Peters at a meeting with CBP officials in Washington, D.C., and Walberg, a Republican, talked about the issue in person with President Donald Trump in January.

On Feb. 13, Walberg set up a meeting in the White House with LaMarre and Peter Navarro, Trump’s director of trade and manufacturing policy to discuss the inequities.

“In today’s age of seemingly divisive politics, it is rewarding and reassuring that Sen. Gary Peters and Congressman Tim Walberg are putting Michigan’s continued prosperity as a marine transportation hub above party differences. The fact that both legislators have engaged the United States Government Accountability Office to investigate USCBP’s inequitable treatment of Michigan seaports is proof positive that USCBP’s disingenuous dialogue with elected leadership will not be tolerated,” LaMarre said in response to the letter to the GAO.

“To this day, USCBP refuses to answer one simple question: Why are Michigan ports being treated differently than anywhere else in the United States? They have evaded this question for months. It is time for the GAO to find out why.”

Port of Monroe - State of Michigan

Peters, Walberg Call for Examination of Security Standards at U.S. Ports

Source: Gary Peters

Inconsistent Screening Requirements have Halted Service at Port of Monroe while other Ports Continue Operations

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and U.S. Representative Tim Walberg (MI-07), called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study inconsistencies in the cargo screening standards at American ports that have halted service at Michigan’s Port of Monroe. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Detroit Field Office has restricted the Port of Monroe from accepting international break bulk cargo – countering nearly 90 years of practice since the Port of Monroe began operations in 1932 – unless the Port invests in significant and costly screening technology and infrastructure upgrades at their own expense. Other coastal and Great Lakes ports have not been subjected to the same strict screening requirements. The change in requirements has severely impacted the Port of Monroe’s operations, and undermines Michigan’s economic competitiveness.

“We have received reports that CBP is not applying a consistent standard at ports of entry across the United States for screening requirements for non-containerized cargo, including for ports in Michigan,” wrote the Members. “CBP’s inconsistent approach gives a strategic advantage to some ports while placing burdensome infrastructure requirements on other ports, such as demands from CBP to purchase expensive scanning equipment that is provided by the federal government at other points of entry.”

Currently, the SAFE Port Act and other federal regulations outline specific requirements for incoming containerized cargo. These requirements lack clear outlined standards for non-containerized cargo. Federal regulations mandate 100% scanning for incoming containerized cargo, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended the implementation deadline multiple times. The Members have asked GAO to examine whether these standards are being equally enforced at different ports across the country, and how they apply to different types of cargo, including non-containerized cargo such as break bulk.

Text of the letter is copied below:

February 24, 2020

The Honorable Gene Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

United States Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Comptroller General Dodaro:

The U.S. economy depends on the secure and expeditious flow of millions of tons of cargo each day. Cargo shipments can, however, present significant security concerns, as individuals have exploited vulnerabilities in the supply chain by using maritime cargo shipments to smuggle narcotics, stowaways, and other contraband into the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has responsibility for administering maritime cargo security and reducing the vulnerabilities associated with the shipping cargo to the U.S. through the global supply chain while maintaining robust trade and commerce.

In general, cargo entering the U.S. via the maritime domain is subject to physical examination by CBP pursuant to a number of authorities, including Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE Port Act). The SAFE Port Act, as amended by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, also includes cargo screening and scanning requirements. However, given that DHS has extended the date by which 100 percent scanning is to be implemented several times, the extent to which the 100 percent scanning requirement is being enforced is not clear. In addition, it is not clear how CBP is defining “containerized cargo” for purposes of the 100 percent scanning requirement and the extent to which the enforcement is consistent across all domestic ports.

We have received reports that CBP is not applying a consistent standard at ports of entry across the United States for screening requirements for non-containerized cargo, including for ports in Michigan. CBP’s inconsistent approach gives a strategic advantage to some ports while placing burdensome infrastructure requirements on other ports, such as demands from CBP to purchase expensive scanning equipment that is provided by the federal government at other points of entry.

Because of inconsistencies that exist regarding cargo security standards for non-containerized cargo—such as break bulk cargo—we would like to request that GAO conduct a review focused on answering the following questions:

  • Does DHS/CBP have any maritime cargo security programs or requirements that pertain to non-containerized maritime cargo and, if so, to what extent are CBP’s non-containerized cargo security requirements and procedures implemented consistently across ports? Please provide any updates on the status of changes to policy for break bulk cargo.
  • What types of cargo shipments (i.e., containerized cargo, break bulk, etc.) does CBP consider to be within the scope of its maritime cargo security programs, such as the Container Security Initiative and the 100 percent scanning mandate?
  • What type of risk analyses, if any, has DHS or CBP conducted to determine the risks of non-containerized maritime cargo before its departure from a foreign port?
  • What do DHS and CBP officials view as impediments, if any, to ensuring the security of non-containerized maritime cargo?

Thank you for your consideration of this request.