Above: The Paul R. Tregurtha is the largest freighter on the Great Lakes (photo: Samuel Hankinson).
The Port of Monroe, located on the western end of Lake Erie in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System, has developed very unique bulk cargo operations in the past few seasons.
At the mouth of the River Raisin is the DTE Monroe Power plant. This power plant receives cargoes of coal every week typically aboard the Paul R. Tregurtha, the largest freighter on the Great Lakes. The plant also receives cargoes of limestone that is used for flue gas desulphurization. It is through this flue gas desulphurization process that the plant generates synthetic gypsum, as well as bottom ash. The Port of Monroe is not involved with the cargo unloading operations at DTE, but has a long-standing relationship with the plant.
Since 2014, the port has handled cargoes of synthetic gypsum from the power plant. This material had been previously trucked to a landfill, and is now shipped by barge to destinations like Sandusky, Ohio and Port Colborne, Ontario for use in wallboard markets. It is also trucked to local farmers for agricultural use.
 The Herbert C. Jackson laker berthed at the Port of Monroe (photo: Paul LaMarre).
Another byproduct the port handles from the power plant is bottom ash. This is a supplementary cementitious material, and the Port of Monroe has shipped it to the St. Marys Cement plant in Charlevoix, Michigan and more frequently the LaFarge Cement plant in Alpena, Michigan. Cement leaves these plants on specialized cement carrying freighters for distribution to regional terminals in the Great Lakes.
DRM Terminal Services loads vessels when they are in port. The operation consists of two reach stackers and two to four front-end loaders. The reach stackers can be repositioned as needed to ensure the vessel is loaded safely. DRM (Diversified Residual Management) is the port’s terminal operator. The port’s team does an exceptional job of moving bulk cargo across its docks.
The Port of Monroe’s bulk handling operations are a great story of beneficial re-use not only for the local community but for the Great Lakes region as a whole.
 The Undaunted tug and the Pere Marquette 41 — formerly a car ferry — are a winning combination at the Port of Monroe (photo: Samuel Hankinson).
What is also unique about these bulk cargoes are the vessels that haul them. The articulated tug/barge Undaunted/Pere Marquette 41 have been a frequent caller to Monroe in recent years, handling the ‘bulk’ of the port’s bulk.
The Pere Marquette 41 was built in 1941 as the car ferry City of Midland 41 and sailed between Michigan and Wisconsin with passengers and freight cars for the Pere Marquette and C&O railroads. It was converted to a notched bulk freight barge in 1998. The barge is an unusual form of self-unloader. The equipment on the barge includes a crane with a clamshell bucket, a bucket loader, as well as a material conveyor with a receiving hopper.
This equipment makes the PM41 incredibly versatile in the cargoes it is able to handle, making it the perfect vessel to carry the synthetic gypsum and bottom ash cargoes from the Port of Monroe. The barge also carries boulders, scrap metal, and other various aggregate cargoes during a typical shipping season. The tug Undaunted is a former maritime academy training vessel.
Recently, this pair of vessels was acquired by the Interlake Holding Company. The Interlake Steamship Company is the largest privately held shipping company on the Great Lakes, and is presently building a new self-unloading bulk carrier at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. This vessel, to be named Mark W. Barker, is the first self-powered US-flagged vessel to be built on the Great Lakes for Great Lakes service in over 30 years. The Port of Monroe looks forward to welcoming this new vessel once it enters service next summer.
In the 2021 shipping season, the Herbert C. Jackson has so far called twice at the Port of Monroe (photo: Samuel Hankinson).
During the 2021 shipping season, the port has seen the Undaunted/PM41 six times, and the Herbert C. Jackson (another Interlake vessel) twice. The PM41 has loaded gypsum cargoes for Port Colborne while the Jackson has been hauling bottom ash up to Alpena. There is a great relationship between the port and Interlake, as Interlake’s vessels deliver coal to the power plant, and transport materials to beneficial re-use markets around the Great Lakes.