Funding for ice breaker, new Soo lock included in spending bill

There could be a new icebreaker coming to the Great Lakes. In an appropriations bill signed by President Trump last week, funding for the Coast Guard to make it’s first steps to acquire a new icebreaker was secured. The move received applause from the organization that represents US-flagged Great Lakes freighters. President of the Lake Carriers Association, Jim Weakley, tells WPHM it’s a good start but more are needed. Weakley also says the recent spending bill included $75.3 million in funding for a new Soo Lock. The proposed new 1000 foot long lock in Sault Ste. Marie could see construction later next year.

The Lake Carriers Association says 2019 was a good year for shippers but there are some challenges ahead in the new year. With the most recently announcement of the closure of a steel mill in River Rouge, Weakley says it could have impacts up and down the supply chain. US Steel’s Great Lakes Works is expected to be indefinitely idled in late 2020, effecting about 1500 workers. He says it’s too soon to tell if it will result in a loss in tonnage hauled on the lakes or if it will be a transfer to other steel mills in the region. On a brighter note, Weakley says one of the highlights this year for the shipping industry was the announcement by Interlake Steamship Company that they will build a new freighter. It would be the first US bulk carrier to be built in over 30 years.

December 26 Jim Weakley