The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor welcomed the first ship of the 2006 international shipping season recently with the arrival of the Ziemia Cieszynska. Captained by Jan Jarosz from Poland, the vessel arrived at approximately 2:00 on March 31 carrying 8,900 tons of steel coils from the Netherlands.

Every year, from the end of March through December, the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway, “the fourth coast of the United States,” opens its international waterway to ships calling on US and Canadian ports throughout the Great Lakes.

“The first ship of the season is always a special event,” said Port Director Steve Mosher. “Our port handles foreign shipments year-round on river barges, but ocean-going ships provide a direct connection between Indiana and the rest of the world. Plus, there’s just something special about watching a 650-foot international ship pull into port.”

About 40 local workers from the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1969 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 unloaded the ship in about 10 to 12 hours. A third of the ship’s cargo is destined for the Port of Indiana, as it will continue on to Milwaukee. A full ship of 24,000 tons would take about three days to unload. The port’s labor force handles more tons per hour than any other port on the Great Lakes, which reduces shipping costs and creates a competitive advantage for the Port of Indiana.

“This year is off to fast start,” Mosher said. “More than 100,000 tons of steel shipments are already scheduled for April, which is 48% above average for the past five years.”