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Port Milwaukee Cargo Volumes Rise in a Remarkable Year

2020 Numbers Show Port Overcoming Pandemic and Flooding Challenges

For Release, January 19, 2021
For more information, Jeff Fleming (414) 286-8580

In an unusual year with historic challenges, Port Milwaukee finished 2020 with its highest annual cargo volume in the past seven years. Overall tonnage for the municipal port and the adjacent private docks in Milwaukee Harbor rose more than 5%, led by agricultural exports and handling of cement.

“Port Milwaukee’s resilience was on full display in 2020. We overcame flooding resulting from unusually high water levels on Lake Michigan at the start of the year. We also overcame the pandemic’s sustained effect on the economy and on the Port’s essential operations,” Port Director Adam Tindall-Schlicht said. “Our workforce, our partners, and our customers deserve enormous credit for this past year’s successes.”

Tonnage at the Port’s municipal facilities on Jones Island was down a little more than 1% when compared to 2019. Even so, that tonnage finished ahead of both the five-year and ten-year averages for Port Milwaukee. Led by outbound grain shipments and construction material, private docks in the Harbor handled nearly 37% more cargo than last year.

Port Milwaukee
Tonnage Summary
(in metric tons)
2019 2020
Total Public Docks 2,182,810 2,148,200
Total Private Docks 485,814 663,808
Total Port Tonnage and Private Docks Waterborne Tonnage 2,668,624 2,812,008

In addition to the positive cargo news, Port Milwaukee welcomed major announcements of new activity in 2020. Viking revealed that its Expedition cruises will use Port Milwaukee as a major Great Lakes turnaround destination beginning in 2022; Pearl Seas inked a new agreement for its long-term cruise operations in Milwaukee; The Delong Co. announced its plan to build the Port’s new $31+ million agricultural export facility; and, Michels Corp. signed a new lease to expand its marine construction operation at the Port.

“2020 brought Port Milwaukee its largest new investments in decades, and, looking forward, these projects will have an ongoing, positive impact across the regional economy,” Tindall-Schlicht said. “The City of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Transportation have been integral partners in sustaining the Port’s performance in 2020 and supporting its future growth. We are grateful.”