Maersk Illinois arrives in Milwaukee via St. Lawrence Seaway

MILWAUKEE – The Maersk Illinois, a U.S.-flag multipurpose vessel with heavy lift cranes, became the first American ship to load cargo in Milwaukee for an overseas destination in more than 30 years, according to Maersk-Rickmers, a global carrier of large and heavy cargo.

The shipment of two P&H rope shovels, financed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, required the U.S.-flag vessel to carry nearly 8,000 cu. m. of machinery bound for a Siberian mining project. According to Port of Milwaukee spokesman Jeff Fleming, Maersk Illinois is the first U.S.-flag vessel since 1981 to arrive in Milwaukee by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

“A U.S.-flagged vessel hasn’t carried cargo out of the Port of Milwaukee for decades,” Fleming said.

Maersk Illinois’s voyage to Milwaukee has attracted the attention of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who touted the benefits of Ex-Im Bank financing in a blog post by highlighting the Milwaukee port call. Ship photographers and aficionados have followed the vessel’s trek, posting various images of Maersk Illinois online.

The mining shovels aboard the Maersk Illinois are part of an ongoing relationship between Milwaukee-based P&H and Joy Global with the Russian Federation’s coal industry. A third shovel is slated for transport from Milwaukee in September, to be carried by the same vessel or its sister ship, the Maersk Texas.

Maersk Illinois and Maersk Texas are the vessels that make up Maersk-Rickmers, a U.S. flag project carrier, or Maersk-Rickmers for short. Maersk-Rickmers is a partnership between Maersk Line and Rickmers-Linie (America) Inc. The newly-built 19,592-dwt vessels support Maersk-Rickmers’ worldwide breakbulk and project cargo shipping operations.

Maersk Illinois came under the U.S. flag in December 2011, completing two voyages to West Africa before its current journey. She departed Milwaukee on June 5, and the voyage from Milwaukee to Russia’s west coast is expected to take approximately two weeks. Upon arrival, the shovels will be loaded onto rail cars to complete their journey to the Kuzbass coal mine in western Siberia.

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