Cross-lake shipping service planned between Milwaukee, Muskegon ports

Would allow companies to avoid moving cargo through Chicago

A group of companies from both sides of Lake Michigan plan to start a regular shipping service between the ports of Milwaukee and Muskegon, Michigan beginning in March.

Port of Milwaukee

Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Supply Chain Solutions Inc. is partnering with Muskegon-based Eco Ships to launch the service but is still fine tuning the exact plans for operations. Depending on which ships are used, each crossing could make one or two round trips each day.

The idea is to move truck trailers, containers and other cargo potentially increasing the number of loads a truck and driver can make in each trip. It would also allow companies to avoid moving cargo through Chicago and Indiana, potentially saving cost and reducing the impact on infrastructure.

“It’s going to be a significant new avenue of moving freight,” said Les Brand, Supply Chain Solutions chief executive officer.

Brand and others involved in the project held a meeting Wednesday at the Port of Milwaukee with interested parties in an effort to get feedback on the needs of the market.

“I think on so many levels, this could be a winner for so many parties on both sides of the lake and for jobs and the economy,” said Paul Vornholt, Port of Milwaukee director.

Illinois-based Multi-Modal Transport Inc. will serve as the port operator for the project in Milwaukee.

Beyond helping companies save time and money on shipping, the long-term goal of the project is also to convince a rail provider to bring an intermodal station back to the Port of Milwaukee. Canadian Pacific closed its intermodal station there about four years ago. The result is container shipments have to be trucked down to Chicago before going on trains to the West Coast. Not only do the trucks have to deal with congestion on Chicago’s highways, but the containers are delayed at Chicago’s railyards.

Brand said officials in Indiana and Chicago are supportive of the new service concept, believing it will reduce congestion in their infrastructure.

Jonathan Van Wylen, co-founder of Eco Ships, hopes to eventually provide on-demand service throughout the Great Lakes.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at 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.

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