The John G. Munson will be repowered this winter. Its steam engine will be replaced with a more-efficient diesel motor.

U.S.-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes have committed more than $110 million to maintain and modernize their vessels in 2016, the Lake Carriers’ Association said Monday.  Maintenance and repair work typical of the winter lay-up period will cost approximately $60 million.  Projects that involve repowering vessels or installing exhaust gas scrubbers will cost upwards of $50 million, according to the Cleveland-based group.

“This level of investment is a testimony to my members’ commitment to Great Lakes shipping,” said James H.I. Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association, the trade association representing U.S.-flag vessel operators on the lakes.  “The dumping of foreign steel into the U.S. market has severely impacted cargo movement during the final months of 2015.  Six of the most efficient vessels in the fleet were withdrawn from service in November because of steel dumping.  Still, my members are moving forward with projects that will keep their vessels safe and efficient and further reduce their already small carbon footprint.”

Several vessels will be dry-docked as required by law to allow U.S. Coast Guard and American Bureau of Shipping representatives to inspect the hull below the waterline. Two U.S.-flag steamships, the John G. Munson and the HerbertC. Jackson, will be repowered with state-of-the-art diesel engines.  Both have been in service on the Lakes since the 1950s.  A U.S. Maritime Administration report has noted that repowering a Great Lakes freighter typically achieves 80 percent of the efficiencies of a new build at 20 percent of the cost.

In addition to these repowerings, the Jamers R. Barker and Lee A. Tregurtha will be fitted with exhaust gas scrubbers.

The major Great Lakes shipyards include Fraser in Superior plus facilities in Sturgeon Bay and Marinette, Wisconsin; Erie, Pa.; and Toledo, Ohio.  Smaller “top-side” repair operations are located in Cleveland, Ohio; Escanaba, Michigan; Buffalo, New York; and several cities in Michigan.  The industry’s annual payroll for its 2,700 employees approaches $125 million and it is estimated that a wintering vessel generates an additional $800,000 in economic activity in the community in which it is moored.