After down 2018, Port Milwaukee targeting 10% growth in 2019

Salt sold by Compass Minerals is delivered to Port Milwaukee. The company is closing its Kenosha packaging facility.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:07 pm

With two ships currently in the North Atlantic planning stops at Port Milwaukee, the city’s port is preparing for the start of the international shipping season and its director says the port could see volumes increase 10 percent this year.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway marked its opening for the 2019 shipping season on Tuesday. The Fednav ship Federal Barents and the Polsteam ship Irma are both expected to enter the seaway in about a week. Both ships are carrying raw materials for manufacturing that will be unloaded at Port Milwaukee and transferred to rail cars or trucks for delivery.

“We are doing a lot more here at the port to strategically market and target our international and domestic customers, not only throughout North America, but in Europe,” said Adam Schlicht, director of Port Milwaukee.

The port is also planning more than $3.7 million in upgrades to its rail system, an investment that could help bring intermodal container service return to Milwaukee.

The port saw its total cargo tonnage drop by about 7 percent last year, but the decrease was primarily because of a decrease in salt shipments created by a strike at a Canadian mine. Saint Lawrence Seaway cargo shipped through Port Milwaukee increased by 28 percent last year.

Schlicht said the port has had a strong start to the year with Great Lakes shipping and he is cautiously optimistic the port will be able to sustain 10 percent growth overall. He said projections for slower but continued growth in U.S. and Canadian GDP give him reason for optimism.

“When there is GDP growth, that leads to international trade potential for the port,” Schlicht said.

With rising global trade tensions between the U.S. and some of its trading partners, Schlicht said the port has seen some impact on agribusiness related shipments. He said it is important for the port to help identify new or additional markets for its tenants and surrounding businesses.

“We did some shipments to Tunisia (last year),” he said. “We need to stay diligent in 2019 and beyond, identifying what are those developing economies that Wisconsin-based manufacturers can utilize if some of the traditional trade lanes via the port have been constricted as the result of tariffs.”

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.