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Work continues on Escanaba’s deep water port

Thursday, 16 July 2015 | 06:09
Work continues at the deep water port being constructed in Escanaba that will allow for the repair of large vessels and open up the city for international trade.

"This will put Escanaba on the world map as a deep water port capable of accepting large draft vessels," said Lyle Berro, business development manager for Basic Marine Inc., which is developing the port.

The port is a short distance from downtown on the city's northern shore, on the historical site of the city's merchant dock. By extending an existing 450-foot pier, Basic Marine intends to create a 1,200-foot pier capable of accommodating multiple ships carrying cargo or receiving repairs.

The existing 450-foot pier at the Basic Marine shipyard will be extended to 1,200 feet as part of a project to turn the shipyard into a deep water port. Once completed, the port would be able to handle incoming and outgoing cargo and allow for the winter docking and repair of large vessels. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Ilsa Matthes)

"This structure will be here for the next 200 years or more. This is a permanent structure, a permanent addition to the harbor of Escanaba," Berro said. "That harbor goes back to the 1840s and this is the biggest improvement to the commercial harbor of Escanaba in the last 50 years, maybe longer."

During the summer months when weather is warm and the waters of the Great Lakes are open for shipping, goods will be able to leave or enter the port. In the winter, when the lake has frozen over and shipping channels have closed, ships can be stationed at the port for repairs.

"(When) one ship comes in for winter tie up it'll take anywhere from 10 ... to 25 people per ship to do the type of repairs that they need," Berro said. "These people come in and they're highly skilled. They stay in our motels, they eat in our restaurants ... they patronize our area for three or four months out of the winter."

Extending the dock and dredging the lake bottom to a depth of 28 feet - the depth needed for large ships to access the port - is progressing. Dredging began last fall near the mouth of the port, and the steel walls of the dock extension are being placed into the lake bottom.

While only a few feet wide, each of the sections that have been placed along the path of the pier expansion extends higher above the waterline than the surface of the dock will be located. Once all of the pieces are in place, they will be driven down to only a few feet above the water's surface, embedding the rest of the steel into the lake bottom for additional support.

Tie back bars are added to connect the walls of the dock and minimize potential slippage. Once the walls of the dock are secure and have been driven to the correct level, the frame will be filled with material, creating the dock's surface.

Much of that material will be gathered in the dredging process. The lake around the existing portion of the dock is only 12 to 14 feet deep, and dredging the bottom of the entire port area is expected to create substantially more material than is needed for the dock itself.

While no official opening date has been set, Berro said Basic Marine expects to have four or five ships using the port for tie up and repair this winter.

"It's a big economic impact. It puts a lot of people to work in the shipyard here," he said, adding the Basic Marine shipyard was the only place in Michigan capable of building and hauling out steel vessels weighing up to 2,200 tons and ranging in size from 45 feet to 300 feet long. "There's nothing else like it within the state."
Source: Mining Journal
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