Ports & Terminals

Indiana Ports Report Second-Highest Tonnage In History

Ports of Indiana announced February 26 that its three state-owned ports shipped 12.6 million tons of cargo in 2023, the second-highest tonnage in the organization’s 63-year history.

The total was 6 percent higher than the previous year, and second only to 2018, when the ports handled 14.8 million tons of cargo.

The largest single cargo increase in 2023 was coal exports from Mount Vernon, which jumped 78 percent. Fertilizer increased more than 11 percent overall, with double-digit gains at Mount Vernon and Jeffersonville, while soy products, minerals, ethanol, DDGs and cement also increased.

In addition to the Ohio River ports at Mount Vernon and Jeffersonville, Ports of Indiana operates Burns Harbor Port on Lake Michigan.

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“At Ports of Indiana, we are privileged to partner with a group of world-class companies that ship critical cargoes to and from our regional economies,” Ports of Indiana CEO Jody Peacock said. “The dedication and hard work of these businesses are why Indiana ranks 12th in the nation for maritime shipping and why our maritime economy is booming. The 2023 cargo volumes were even more impressive considering some of the major challenges facing our industry this past year with low water levels and lock closures.”

Indiana’s three-port system maintained substantial tonnages despite several factors that stymied the U.S. inland maritime industry as a whole: an extended lock closure on the Illinois River, near-record low water levels on the Mississippi River, and a weeklong work stoppage by Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway employees.

Ports of Indiana also experienced significant growth in rail shipments during 2023, with rail carloads increasing 28 percent year over year. All three ports increased rail shipments, but Mount Vernon led the way with 39,909 rail cars, a 42 percent increase from 2022. Overall, Ports of Indiana handled 65,141 rail cars in 2023.

The 2023 business results also indicate that Ports of Indiana’s economic impact increased year over year. A 2023 study found that Indiana’s three ports supported more than 49,000 jobs and generated $8.7 billion annually for the state’s economy, $3.5 billion in annual wages and $536 million in state and local taxes.

“This is an exciting time at Ports of Indiana,” Peacock said. “We’re going through a transformational period as we build up our internal resources to spur port growth and work through transitions of key terminal operators at all three ports. We’re cautiously optimistic about the 2024 cargo outlook, but we’re more excited about how our team is positioning Indiana’s port system for long-term future growth.”