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Marine transportation is an essential component of Michigan’s freight transportation system. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway form a maritime transportation system extending 2,300 miles from the gulf of the St. Lawrence Seaway on the Atlantic Ocean to the western end of Lake Superior. Michigan’s 3,200 miles of shoreline along four of the five Great Lakes contain 33 active cargo ports that ship or receive cargo. Michigan’s ports handle 51.7 million tons of cargo valued at $4.1 billion annually. It is a critical part of the overall freight transportation system and the modal diversity that is one of the state’s competitive advantages.
The maritime system is a partnership between the public and private sectors. The federal government generally maintains the infrastructure by way of congressionally authorized navigation channels, aids-to-navigation, and other marine services. The private sector typically provides the marine terminals, cargo vessels, and necessary access channels to reach the public channels. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) maintains a listing of all publicly and privately owned marine facilities throughout the state and works in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and other state agencies on issues impacting maritime navigation.
All providers receive operating assistance from MDOT’s State Operating Assistance Program through the Office of Passenger Transportation. Providers also receive capital assistance through the Federal Ferry Boat Program and the state Comprehensive Transportation Fund has been used for match. Prior to the pandemic, there were over 1 million passengers and almost 600,000 vehicles transported between the four systems. Each provider is subject to state and federal regulations, including those imposed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers.
Funding Assistance Programs
MDOT is responsible for planning and assisting in the development of commercial marine facilities and services, providing capital or operating assistance to selected marine services, and analysis of state and federal policy and legislation concerning marine issues.
Questions? Contact MDOT-Marine@Michigan.gov.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District
Agency responsible for construction and maintenance of congressional authorized navigation channels.
Maritime Administration (MARAD) Great Lakes Gateway Office
USDOT agency responsible for America's waterborne transportation system.
Michigan Port Advisory Committee
Governor appointed board established to make recommendations to the Michigan Strategic Fund Board of Directors regarding projects related to port facilities.
American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)
Organization representing public port authorities in U.S.
Lake Carriers Association (LCA)
Organization representing U.S. flagged Great Lakes carriers.