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Indiana Ports gets green light for Chicago’s first sea cargo hub

Indiana Ports gets green light for Chicago's first sea cargo hub
Indiana Ports gets green light for Chicago's first sea cargo hub

The Chicago logistics market is about to receive a boost. Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor has received approval to establish the first international sea cargo terminal on Lake Michigan. This terminal will create the only all-water container route for ocean vessels to serve the greater Chicago area via the Great Lakes.

Why does this matter? This cargo hub introduces a more efficient all-water route for shipping goods to the Chicago metropolitan area, potentially reducing transportation costs and delivery times. Currently all containers are moved by truck or rail. 

Diversity supply chains 

The Burns Harbor terminal is in northwest Indiana, near Chicago. It is part of the 25th largest US port, handling 25 million tons of cargo each year and generating $16.6 billion in economic impact. The Chicago area, with 9.6 million people, is the third largest. It has the largest intermodal container market in North America. 

Ports of Indiana will provide the necessary infrastructure, including a customs and border protection (CBP) office, equipment, furnishings, supplies, large-scale non-inspection equipment, radiation portal monitors, and security, as per CBP’s specifications. Construction and installation will take place in 2025.

Ryan McCoy, port director at Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor says the organization has made this a top priority as providing Chicago with a modern port system is important. 

“Great Lakes shipping is limited by a shorter shipping season and the use of smaller vessels, but the potential upside for handling containers is tremendous,” says McCoy. 

He adds that by allowing ocean carriers to start serving this market could diversify supply chains, avoid bottlenecks and reduce the overall carbon footprint for shipping to and from the Midwest.

Importance of Chicago in logistics 

Chicago has good connectivity when it comes to the transport of goods. It integrates rail, road, and air freight which allows the easy movement of cargo. 

Ian Hirt, a maritime consultant working with the port to develop container business says his team are working with businesses that have a strong interest in using a regular liner service to Burns Harbor. “This will likely be a niche service that offers specialized amenities, such as refrigerated containers or a green alternative, but it could also help avoid bottlenecks and improve supply chain reliability,” says Hirt. 

All-water cargo hubs in the US 

The establishment of an all-water cargo hub helps improve logistics efficiencies. Using waterways for cargo transport can reduce transportation costs. 

All-water cargo hubs enhance connectivity between regions and international markets. They can facilitate smoother and faster movement of goods. These hubs also connect inland regions with global trade routes and provide businesses with more options for importing and exporting products​. 

Earlier this year, the Port of Virginia expanded its services, directly linking to the Latin American market. 

The authority’s CEO Stephen Edwards said at the time that this service expansion is an important step to directly do business in some growing, important markets in South and Central America. 

ALSO READ: UPS to sell Coyote Logistics business unit

Photo Credit: Canva

About the author

Sharl is a qualified journalist. He has over 10 years’ experience in the media industry, including positions as an editor of a magazine and Business Editor of a daily newspaper. Sharl also has experience in logistics specifically operations, where he worked with global food aid organisations distributing food into Africa. Sharl enjoys writing business stories and human interest pieces.

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