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Port of Green Bay headed for best year in a decade

Coal piles on Green Bay's west side (WBAY file photo)
Coal piles on Green Bay's west side (WBAY file photo)(WBAY)
Published: Oct. 22, 2019 at 8:20 PM CDT
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The Port of Green Bay is on pace for its best shipping season in more than a decade.

When it comes to the number of ships and amount of cargo sailing into the Port of Green Bay each year, Port Director Dean Haen says two factors come into play.

"The economy is number one, so if our manufacturers in Northeast Wisconsin as far south as Sheboygan over to Wausau and up into the U.P. need raw materials, they're ordering them and they're coming," Haen said. "Then additionally, Mother Nature has an impact, so the last two years, significant winters, we have consumed, throughout the Great Lakes, all the salt reserves there are."

Haen says the port is on pace to receive 2.3 million tons of cargo this year -- up 20% from last year.

He calls it a great sign for the regional economy in relation to manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Haen says the last time there was a major decline in shipping tonnage was in 2007 prior to the Great Recession.

"We really seem to be a leading indicator of how we're going to do at least for the next six months, so because we're seeing strong shipping numbers yet, that bodes well for even into the spring."

And a major added bonus for the port's 14 terminal operators: high water levels.

"For each inch of water that's available, a ship coming into Green Bay can carry about 100 tons. So, that's several rail cars, that's five more truckloads for every inch, and the port right now is up 32 to 36 inches, so you multiply that out and they're able to carry a significantly larger payload at virtually no cost because the cost of fuel, the cost of the crew, the cost of the ship all remain the same."

Haen says ships will continue sailing in until the Bay of Green Bay freezes over.