New Operator Sought for International Ag Shipping Terminal on Lake Michigan

March 30, 2023

(Image: Ports of Indiana)
(Image: Ports of Indiana)

Ports of Indiana has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify potential operators of the International Ag Shipping Terminal at Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor. The 7-million-bushel terminal has transload capabilities for ocean ships, lake vessels, river barges, unit trains and trucks. This is the first time the Lake Michigan terminal is available for a new operator in 44 years.

The facility has been operated by Cargill since 1979 but the company announced it is changing its business model in the region and will relinquish the facility to the port as of June 1. Ports of Indiana originally financed the construction of Cargill’s facility in 1979 and, through the years, the terminal has exported more than 500 million bushels of corn and soybeans to world markets. The terminal can handle ocean vessels transiting the Great Lakes, 1,000-foot lake vessels, year-round barge traffic via the inland river system and unit trains from nearly all Class I railroads.

“It’s the end of an era and a new beginning for one of the largest international ag terminals on the Great Lakes,” said Ryan McCoy, port director for Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor. “It’s bittersweet for me because I worked at that facility for 10 years and Cargill has been a great partner for the Ports of Indiana and the local community. However, this change also creates a unique opportunity to reimagine the facility and expand its capabilities going forward.”

The grain elevator terminal includes 7.2 million bushels of storage facilities and high-speed loading capacities that can load 90,000 bushels per hour into an ocean vessel and unload 30,000 bushels per hour from a unit train, which are industry leading capacities even today. Ports of Indiana will assume possession of the facility and is currently looking for a long-term partner to help grow shipments at the port.

The RFQ seeks qualifications from companies interested in operating the ag terminal. Responses are due April 21. Ports of Indiana will issue a formal Request for Proposals in May to all qualified companies.

“We’re excited about the next chapter for this terminal,” McCoy said. “We have received multiple inquiries from companies interested in expanding the facility. This is a unique deep-water terminal with tremendous capabilities for shipping grain, DDGs and many bulk cargoes to and from ocean vessels at the Heartland of America. It’s not every day that this type of facility becomes available.”

The Burns Harbor port opened in 1970, is home to more than 30 companies, and handles approximately 3 million tons of cargo per year. Currently, the port is developing a $32 million facilities expansion funded by two federal grants that includes construction of two rail yards, new bulk and general cargo terminals, a bulk warehouse, and a truck marshalling yard. The port complex contributes $5.2 billion per year to the Indiana economy and supports more than 30,000 jobs.

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