Port Traffic Fell in 2021
"But that's not the whole story," says port director.
After seeing a spike in 2020, traffic through Milwaukee’s port fell in 2021 to a level below both its five- and ten-year averages.
The city-owned port ended 2021 with 2.35 million metric tons crossing its docks, down 16.4% from the year prior. Pandemic-impacted 2020 saw 2.81 million metric tons, with 2.67 million in 2019. The five-year average is 2.56 million and the 10-year average is 2.51 million.
“But that’s not the whole story,” wrote the director. “Port Milwaukee found new success in its strategic partnerships, grant funding efforts, and new economic development opportunities over the past year.”
Construction started in October on the “agricultural maritime export facility,” the biggest investment in the port since the 1950s. Those involved in the $35 million, public-private project, hope it will result in between 160,000 to 300,000 metric tons being exported annually. The primary commodity will be dry distillers grain with solubles (DDGS), a byproduct of ethanol production used as animal feed in less nutrient-rich areas.
Tindall-Schlicht is also optimistic that the merger of Kansas City Southern and Canadian Pacific, which currently serves the port, will result in a growth in rail traffic out of the port. The merger creates the first railroad that directly links Canada, the United States and Mexico.
The number of vessels visiting the port climbed in 2021, with 400 vessels calling on the port versus 349 in 2020. Foreign vessels, which must visit during the St. Lawrence Seaway’s open season, were the only category to decline (27 in 2021, 30 in 2020).
The city-owned port had a net operating profit of $376,222.20 in 2021, down from $790,489.67.
The 2020 surge, despite the pandemic, was attributed to a warm first two months of the year that allowed more salt deliveries as well as agricultural exports and cement handling throughout the year.
The annual report also acknowledges one truly unexpected event: the February sinking of the 50-year-old Harbor Seagull. The port-owned vessel was retrieved and is being repaired.
The full report is available on the Port Milwaukee website.
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