First ocean vessel of 2015 arrives at Port of Indiana

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The 655-foot bulk carrier M/V Irma arrived at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor signaling the official opening of the international shipping season. Port officials welcomed 2015’s first ocean vessel with a ceremony presenting a Ports of Indiana Steel Stein to the ship’s captain.

“Our port is open year-round handling Great Lakes ships and river barges, but the first ocean vessel of the year signifies the opening of the international shipping season,” said Port Director Rick Heimann.

The arrival of the 655-foot bulk carrier M/V Irma at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor signals the official opening of the international shipping season. Port officials welcomed 2015’s first ocean vessel on Monday with a ceremony presenting the Ports of Indiana “Steel Stein” to the ship’s captain.

“Our port is open year-round handling Great Lakes ships and river barges, but the first ocean vessel of the year signifies the opening of Northwest Indiana’s gateway to the world,” said Port Director Rick Heimann. “These ships bring raw materials for local companies and transport finished goods from the Midwest to global markets. The shipping season also provides an important economic impact to the region for the skilled workers involved in the supply chain as well as many other related jobs and businesses that depend on these cargoes.”

Maritime operations at the port generate $4.3 billion per year in economic activity and support 33,000 total jobs. Overall in 2014, the Port of Indiana handled more shipments than any year since opening in 1970. Total volume was up nearly 30 percent over 2013 driven by strong shipments of steel, grain, limestone and salt.

Manned by Captain Piotr Szczesniak and a crew of 21 from Poland, the Cypress-flagged Irma picked up its steel cargo in Ijmuiden, Holland, and stopped in Cleveland and Milwaukee before coming to the Port of Indiana. Built in 2000, the vessel is owned and operated by the Polsteam Shipping Co.

The steel was unloaded by port stevedore Federal Marine Terminals with local workers from the International Longshoremen’s Assoc. and International Union of Operating Engineers.

“We had a great year in 2014 with record tonnage and activities at the Port of Harbor-Burns Harbor,” said Michel Tosini, executive vice president, Federal Marine Terminals. “We are very encouraged by the prospect of another busy year in 2015 and through our long-term partnerships with the port and our customers, such as Tata Steel, we look forward to tackling the challenge.”

Over 50 workers will spend two or more days unloading 9,400 tons of steel coils from the Irma which are destined for Tata Steel in Chicago.

“We are always pleased with the arrival of the first vessel to the port each year as it symbolizes Tata’s continued commitment to our Midwest customers,” said Simon Golding, general manager for Tata Steel’s Shipping and Logistics Operations. “The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor plays a key role in our supply chain as the predominant gateway into this market region. We are looking forward to another safe and successful season.”

Port Director Heimann presented Captain Szczesniak with the “Steel Stein,” which commemorates Northwest Indiana’s identity as the “steel capital of North America,” producing more steel than any other region on the continent. The Port of Indiana is recognized as one of the top steel ports in the country for inbound and outbound shipments of steel and metal-related products.

On April 2, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened for its 57th navigation season, providing the connection between the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean. Betty Sutton, administrator for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., noted the Seaway realized a nearly 8 percent tonnage increase from 2013 to 2014, reflecting the increasing strength of the economy.

About the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor: The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor opened in 1970 and is operated by Ports of Indiana, a statewide port authority operating three ports on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan. Established in 1961, the Ports of Indiana is a self-funded enterprise dedicated to growing Indiana’s economy by developing and maintaining a world-class port system. Information: portsofindiana.com.

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Rich Allen
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