West Michigan Port Assets Align to Capture Growth

November 30, 2010

Muskegon, MI — The Great Lakes and connecting waterways have provided an efficient mode of transportation and an abundance of natural resources to support the evolution of manufacturing and construction in the our region. The family-owned companies of Verplank and Sand Products together have participated in over a century of this history. And, to capture the growth opportunities in the region along with offering more efficient transportation options, the companies have formed West Michigan Port Operators (WMPO).

The WMPO alliance offers marine logistics, dock and storage services to manufacturers of bulk materials, moisture sensitive materials, break-bulk cargo, and heavy/oversized equipment. The ports offer deep-water access, steel dock faces, and lift capacities to 600 ton. In addition, maritime services include stevedoring crews, piloting and logistics management.

The ports range from Holland in the south to Manistee in the north. Muskegon offers the deepest water access on the West coast of Michigan and all port access to Lake Michigan is maintained by the U.S. Navel Corps of Engineers.

When asked “why now?”, Chuck Canestraight of Sand Products answers, “Michigan is reinventing itself through renewable energy technology and many components are larger than most trucks or trains can safely handle. Ships have the flexibility to carry more cargo overall, and oversized components can be handled more safely with less intrusion on road and rail ways.”

Canestraight also points to the lower emissions per ton of cargo offered by maritime shipping along with reduction in road and rail way congestion around metropolitan areas. Research by Highway H2O, a regional waterways association, found that a single seaway-sized laker can carry about 25,000 tons of cargo. To carry an equivalent amount of cargo on land, you would need to assemble a fleet of 870 large trucks or 225 rail cars. This represents significant emission and congestion reduction.

Joe Burns of Verplank Trucking Company views the alliance as a way to diversify business and capture new cargo clients nationally as well as internationally. Burns credits the U.S. Waterways and St. Lawrence Seaway access to the Great Lakes as a great competitive advantage when targeting new materials transportation. “There are manufacturers of wind turbine components from Europe as well as in the U.S. Midwest that can ship their oversized components directly to our ports for wind farm development in Michigan. This is a major advantage considering that transportation can be 25% of the total cost of a wind farm.”

The member companies of WMPO are busy building relationships with many Michigan manufacturers as well as component manufacturers with access via the Mississippi River and St. Lawrence Seaway. “Together, our port assets make a very competitive intermodal transportation option,” Canestraight reiterates.

About Sand Products – Since 1924 Sand Products Corporation has supported Michigan manufacturing with raw materials for casting, metal smelting, and natural gas well services. Sand Products offers maritime services through the West Michigan Market and Dock Company and Port City Marine Services in Muskegon. Materials are transported and stored via company-owned vessels and port facilities.

About Verplank – Verplank Trucking and Dock Company began in 1910 as Spring Lake Ice & Coal and today is the largest private dock operator in Ferrysburg, handling from 300,000 to 400,000 tons a year of coal, limestone, sand, slag and salt, among other things. Verplank owns and operates a complete fleet of trucks and barges from its facilities in Ferrysburg.

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