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First sea-going ship arrives in northern Indiana

The first ship of the 2020 season arrives in Burns Harbor after traversing the St. Lawrence Seaway. (photo courtesy: The Ports of Indiana)

BURNS HARBOR, Ind (Inside INdiana Business) — A sure sign that winter has passed is the arrival of the first ocean-going vessel of the shipping season on southern Lake Michigan. It means ice has cleared in northern regions of the lake as well as on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The Ports of Indiana says the 466-foot cargo carrier M/V Muntgracht arrived Monday at the port in Burns Harbor.

“The arrival of the first international ship of the year is always an exciting time as it signifies the prosperity the vessels help deliver to our region,” said Port Director Ian Hirt.

The ship, which sails under the Netherlands flag, had a five-day-long voyage through the seaway to the deepwater port at Port of Indiana-Burn Harbor. The locks reopened for the season on April 1.

The ship was loaded with approximately 1,600 tons of wind turbine parts, including hubs and nacelles, which were produced in Spain.

“Many of the components for the natural gas-powered electrical plants and the wind turbines are made internationally,” said Hirt. “As the Midwest pivots from coal to natural gas and renewable energy sources, it makes sense for our port to handle the large-dimensional cargo and transload to the nearby final destination.”

The port authority says traditionally the first ship in the springtime would be presented with the Steel Stein, a celebratory symbol of the northwest Indiana steel industry.

But the event was canceled due to concerns about COVID-19.

The authority says the port handled nearly 2.6 million tons of cargo in 2019, a 6% decrease from 2018, due in part to high water levels and trade uncertainty.