The state's two ports on the Ohio River and one on Lake Michigan combined to handle 8.1 million tons of cargo in 2011, their best year since 2006, the Ports of Indiana said.
New shipments of ethanol and dried distillers grains combined with gains in limestone, salt and steel cargoes to drive the 5 percent increase in total tonnage shipped through the three ports last year, the statewide port authority that operates the three ports announced last week.
It was the fourth straight year port tonnage has gone up, said Rich Cooper, chief executive officer of Ports of Indiana.
"We've also seen a significant increase in capital investments by our port companies as they prepare for future growth. This is a good sign for things to come," Cooper said.
The port at Mount Vernon in southwestern Indiana handled more than half of the state's total 2011 cargo, 4.7 million tons, a 12 percent increase over 2010 and its highest tonnage since 1994, the port authority said.
Ethanol-related shipments played the biggest role in the Mount Vernon increase. Aventine Renewable Energy had its first full year of operation at the port and other ethanol producers taking advantage of the port's new rail-to-barge transfer facility. Ethanol shipments were five times as high as the 2010 total and dried distillers grains grew tenfold.
Phil Wilzbacher, the port director at Mount Vernon, said the ethanol and distilling grain shipments brought diversification.
"Coal and grain remain our highest volume commodities," he said.
Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan moved 2 million tons of cargo in 2011, a 10 percent increase of 2010, behind higher shipments for limestone, steel, fertilizer, coal and salt, the port authority said.
After the northern port received $172,000 in federal funds earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to conduct maintenance dredging in the port's main channel.
"It is very important for the channel to be dredged to the appropriate depth so that ships can get in and out of the port," Peacock told The Times of Munster. "Every inch of dredging equates to 115 tons of cargo that can be carried on a ship."|
The Ohio River port at Jeffersonville handled 1.4 million tons in 2011 behind a 17 percent increase in salt shipments.