The Ports of Indiana is a statewide port authority operating three ports on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan. Ideally situated on two major North American freight transportation arteries — the Great Lakes and the Inland Waterway System — the state’s three-port system serves the world’s most productive industrial and agricultural regions.
Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is designed to quickly and efficiently transport products by truck, rail, barge or ship. Every year, approximately 100 ships, 400 barges, 300,000 trucks, 12,000 railcars and 200 laker vessels move cargo through the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.
Maritime advantages
* the harbour provides 5,500 feet of ship and barge berths, Seaway draught and 1,600-foot diameter turning basin for large vessels;
* one 1,000-foot Great Lakes ship can move the equivalent of 2,300 truckloads of cargo;
* one towboat with 15 barges can haul 1,000 truckloads of cargo; and
* waterborne shipping uses less fuel and emits fewer emissions than truck and rail.
Bulk operations
Ships come through the St. Lawrence Seaway directly to the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, on Lake Michigan, where the cargoes are unloaded and shipped by rail, truck, or barge to their destinations. Like the river ports (Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville and Port of Indiana-Mount Vernon), Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor also receives barges via the inland waterways system. Outgoing cargoes can be placed on ships which navigate the Seaway to access global markets through the Atlantic Ocean, barges that travel the river system, or truck or rail for more local markets.
A wide variety of dry bulk products move through Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. The list includes but is not limited to, scrap steel bound for NLMK Indiana, a steel mini-mill at the Port; import and export grain cargoes via Cargill; limestone for Carmeuse; and fertilizer, sugar, lime and salt bound for Frick Services, Inc.
Several other large handlers of bulk products include Mid-Continent Coal and Coke Company, which handles a wide variety of import/export coal and coke products, and Phoenix Metal Services, LLC., whose core services include handling steel slag.
Metro Ports operates the marine terminal at the Port through which the bulk material moves. In addition to cargoes for port tenants, they also handle cargoes for companies scattered throughout the Midwest. These cargoes include items such as cottonseed, magnesite and many of the materials used to produce steel at the integrated steel mills located throughout the Northwest Indiana region. Metro Ports uses equipment such as Liehberr and Sennebogen. 
In terms of shipping companies, Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor sees cargoes from international carriers such as Fednav, Polsteam, Canfornav, Wagenborg and Spiethoff. It also handles vessels that primarily trade only the Great Lakes. These owners include American Steamship Line, Interlake, Algoma Central and Canada Steamship Lines. There are also barge companies that ply the Great Lakes (McKeil Marine and Purvis Marine), as well as barge companies that move cargoes on the inland river system (ACL, Marquette Transportation, Ingram and Canal Barge). Burns Harbor is close enough to the river system that these barges can ship to and from Burns Harbor.
Major projects under way
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is undertaking a range of projects to improve and expand its services. The most significant of these for the bulk market will be the construction of a new berth that is being built strictly for the handling of bulk cargoes. This berth, when coupled with the port’s new rail yards that will be able to accommodate unit trains, will make shipping bulk cargoes through the Port of Burns Harbor even more competitive than it is now.
Because the port does not have facilities to effectively transfer bulk commodities between modes, it will undertake a major redevelopment to enable its tenants to leverage more efficient and less costly modes by shifting a portion of their bulk commodities off the road system.
The port’s redevelopment will include:
* construction of a 2.3-acre bulk berth facility (Berth 5) to expand the port’s transloading capabilities. Two bulk mooring cells will be constructed to provide a dedicated space for high-speed loading and unloading of waterborne vessels with train and truck.
* Construction of a conveyor system and a bulk truck-rail dump just south of the new bulk cells to provide for transloading between ship, barge, rail and truck. The conveyor system will eliminate need for trucks to support all intermodal transfers at northeastern end of the port and create synergies by establishing a direct interface for rail-to-water transfers.
* Construction of east side rail yard with capacity for 93 rail cars and the relocation of East Boundary Drive to the west side of the rail facilities near the eastern border of the port. Expanding the east side rail infrastructure beyond the existing single track to a yard with four unrestricted tracks will leverage the new rail-to-water interface created by the conveyor system and rail dump. Port tenants have stated the need for rail storage and providing this capability will allow shippers to move more goods by rail instead of truck. The rail yard will also accommodate a 75-car unit train which is critical to increasing throughput at the grain terminal and introducing new commodities that currently are transported by truck.
Source: Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor (all photos: Josh Smith).