Burns Harbor Hopes Metro Ports Will Help Double Bulk Cargo Volume

Jun 21, 2017

Indiana’s ports system hopes a new contractor will help bring more bulk cargo than ever into Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan.

Metro Ports is a stevedoring company. It helps manage how cargo gets off- and on-loaded and distributed at 27 ports in 10 states, including huge facilities at Long Beach, California and Seattle-Tacoma, Washington.

Burns Harbor will be the company’s first Great Lakes operation when it takes over the bulk cargo terminal next month.

Bulk cargo – loose, cheaper materials like grain and fertilizer – makes up about 40 percent of Burns Harbor’s business. The port moved a little more than a million tons of it in 2016.

Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper hopes Metro Ports can help double that volume in the next five years.

“I almost look at it as somebody’s stock portfolio,” he says. “You’ve got to have a variety of cargos coming into your port, because [it's] not every year steel is going to be strong, and that’s been the commodity up there that’s really made that port what it is today.”

Cooper says he hopes Metro Ports will connect Burns Harbor with new places to trade in bulk cargos, in the U.S. and, potentially, abroad.

Metro Ports will operate Burns Harbor’s bulk terminal for five years, with two five-year extensions possible after that.

Cooper declined to disclose the price of the company’s contract.

The ports’ other cargo terminal and its operator, Canada-based FedNav, handle the majority of Burns Harbor’s business in break-bulk materials. Those include steel and large project parts for breweries, windmills and refineries.