The economy of the Great Lakes region relies on maritime shipping to deliver raw materials to critical industries, and bring agricultural products and manufactured goods to market. Unfortunately, there has been no reliable, easily accessible database available to track maritime shipping year-to-year. Blue Accounting will gather annual estimates of maritime cargo tonnage to and through Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ports. New data will be updated yearly to show progress toward the goal of doubling maritime trade.

Photo Credit: Earl Minnis

Photo Credit: Earl Minnis

The GLC convened a Maritime Data Working Group with representatives from each jurisdiction to assist in updating the maritime asset inventory first developed in 2015. The group agreed to collect data on ports, harbors and terminals on the Great Lakes (including on the Chicago Area Waterway System) and to provide an estimate of maritime cargo tonnage at Great Lakes ports for 2015. The inventory does not estimate the value of cargo or other economic activity (e.g., recreation, ship-building). The group members collected and provided the data to the GLC.

A two-step process was used to collect the various maritime datasets. GLC staff assembled a list of ports from previous work and other available port lists and sent a survey to each jurisdiction asking them to approve or modify the list. All jurisdictions responded to the first survey, from which GLC staff created a consolidated list of Great Lakes ports. A second survey was developed to update the first maritime asset inventory, including port facilities, and other maritime assets. This survey also requested cargo tonnage for each port for the 2015 calendar year. The responses from jurisdictions have varied: Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have provided complete datasets; Michigan, Minnesota, Ontario, Quebec, and Wisconsin have provided data, but with some gaps. Indiana and New York have not responded.

GLC staff have created updated datasets of port asset information and cargo tonnage estimates using the best-available data. The updated port asset information is the dataset from the 2015 survey, updated with new information provided by the jurisdictions. The 2015 cargo tonnage estimates are generally the data provided by the jurisdictions. Where data is missing, this dataset uses cargo tonnage from the Army Corps of Engineers and data provided previously by the jurisdictions, in some cases for different years. The updated asset inventory and cargo volume data provide the basis for this initial Blue Accounting maritime transportation web platform.