- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) - Basic Marine has begun the development of Escanaba’s north shore, which will become the home of a new deep water port.

“The final plan is to be a deep water port, that’s the objective of this whole thing. Initially, what we’re striving to do is do ship repair,” Lyle Berro, business development manager for Basic Marine, told the Daily Press of Escanaba ( https://bit.ly/1yfSums ). “This will be the only facility on the upper Great Lakes … that will be able to take a loaded ore freighter and have it be able to come in and have repairs done on it.”

To bring the company’s plan to fruition, the property’s shoreline needed to be dredged to allow ships access to the docks and pier being built. For a fully-loaded carrier to dock, the lake bottom needed to be dredged to around 26 feet.

Dredging the lake has produced large piles of sand on the shoreline, as well as large piles of wood debris from the original merchant dock that was built in the 1840s.

“This is the original merchant dock for Escanaba. The reason Escanaba is here is because of this lake frontage right here that we’re working on,” said Berro.

The new structures - a large stretch of concrete dock and the extension of a 450-foot pier to construct a 1,200-foot pier - will have their own effect for commerce and shipping even though the ships that dock in the deep water port will not be picking up or dropping off cargo.

“They’ll tie up here in the winter time and once the shipping season starts again they’ll be closer to the earliest opening ore shipping port on the Great Lakes, right here in Escanaba,” explained Berro. “Basic Marine also has Basic Towing and they also have an icebreaking service and they’ll be able to get the ships out into the bay, break ice up to the dock, and start the shipping season that much earlier because the ships will be right here.”

In the beginning, Basic Marine will be able to host two or three ships, but eventually the goal is to have as many as 10 ships docked over the winter receiving repairs. Each ship will have its own work crew to ensure that the ship is ready when the shipping season opens in the spring.

“With ship repair winter tie up here, every ship will require between 20 and 50 skilled trades laborer people - welders, pipe-fitters, electricians, engineers - all kinds of skilled trades will be needed to do winter tie-up repairs,” said Berro.

Berro also noted other industries such as machine shops and welding supply companies will benefit from the repairs being done at the new dock. Hotels, retailers, and restaurants could benefit from the people who come in with the ships when they arrive at the port.

“The economic impact once this is up and running will be immense,” said Berro.

The timeline for the project’s completion is dependent on weather conditions, but Basic Marine hopes to have the piles of dredged sand off the shoreline by the spring. Once the dredging is completed, the company will bring in infrastructure like heavy electrical, natural gas, and air lines. Water, wastewater, and storm sewer capabilities will need to be brought in by the city of Escanaba.

“It’s a big project,” said Berro.


Information from: Daily Press, https://www.dailypress.net

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