Great Lake Maritime Task Force

When leaders from the Great Lakes shipping community come together, the opportunities are limitless. The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force is a membership organization bringing together labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and more. Together, we are working to transform and improve the shipping experience throughout the Great Lakes.


From ballast water regulation to dredging, the Jones Act to harbor maintenance taxes, shipping and maritime activity among the Great Lakes is complex and ever-changing. Review our position papers for detailed information and GLMTF’s stance on current conversations, issues or challenges facing our industry .U.S. EPA published their proposed implementing regulations for VIDA on October 26, 2020, which addresses 20 discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. In general, GLMTF supports this regulation, including how ballast water is regulated in the Great Lakes. Click here to view all Positions Papers or scroll through the slides listed below.

Uniform Regulation of Ballast Water

Ballast water discharges are critical to the safe operation of vessels.  The maritime industry has established best management practices and technical innovations to ensure the Great Lakes ecosystem is protected.  Great Lakes stakeholders pushed for a better way to regulate ship discharges other than the Vessel General Permit (VGP) and individual State regulations.  The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) empowered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to establish uniform federal vessel discharge requirements.

Jones Act and Other U.S. Maritime Cabotage Laws

Section 27 of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, generally referred to as the Jones Act, mandates that all cargo moving between U.S. points be carried in vessels that are crewed by, built by, and owned by Americans. Other laws and statutes apply the same ground rules to carrying passengers, towing, dredging, and salvaging in U.S. waters.

The U.S. is far from unique in reserving its domestic waterborne commerce to its domestic fleets. Eighty percent of the world’s coastlines of United Nations shipping nations have similar cabotage laws for their domestic maritime commerce.

Efficient Funding for the Second Poe-Sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

The navigational locks at the Soo connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and international markets. Eighty million tons of cargo, valued at $6 billion and supporting 123,000 jobs, transit the Soo Locks each year. The locks allow cargoes like iron ore and grain to move from mines and farms to customers in the U.S., Canada, and overseas as well as allowing domestic and overseas cargoes to move “up the system” and into upper Midwest markets.

Keep Commerce Moving on the Great Lakes During the Winter Months – Protect the Supply Chain

Once again Great Lakes shipping suffered significant delays in late 2022 due to ice and a lack of USCG icebreakers. Just as the season was closing for the year a massive cold front swept through the Great Lakes Christmas week. The result was a rapid freeze of the western basin of Lake Erie which caused an ice plug to form in the Detroit River and shutdown shipping traffic for almost a week. Over the past ten years, the lack of adequate icebreaking on the Great Lakes has caused the loss of over 10,000 jobs and $2 billion to the economy.  In addition, ice jam flooding in the Great Lakes region has become extreme due to more frequent polar vortexes.

Full Federal Funding for State Maritime Academies

The maritime industry is facing an increasing shortage of licensed merchant mariners with profound commercial and national security implications. Since 1874, America’s State Maritime Academies have been educating and training cadets for licensed officer positions in the United States Merchant Marine. State Maritime Academies, including the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan, produce 70 percent of all new licensed officers in the United States and are the largest source of newly licensed officers in the country.

Short Sea Shipping

A number of new short-distance shipping services have been proposed in the Great Lakes region. In each case, the goal has been to relieve highway or border congestion and move commerce more efficiently. New short sea shipping services on the Great Lakes are likely to take the form of truck ferries and feeder services.

Great Lakes Shipbuilding and Government Programs to Promote the Industry

Great Lakes shipyards are fully capable of building all types of commercial and military vessels for service throughout the world, limited only by the size of the navigational locks in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Within the Great Lakes, shipyards have built 1,000-foot-long vessels that keep the mills supplying steel for U.S.-made automobiles and appliances, the lights on in southeast Michigan, and U.S. workers building America’s infrastructure.

Full Funding for Dredging Great Lakes Deep-Draft Ports and Waterways

Decades of inadequate funding for dredging the Great Lakes have left more than 13 million cubic yards of sediment clogging ports and waterways. Sediment on the bottom means cargoes are left at the dock when vessels can not load to the design depths of the system. This can be as much as 270 tons of iron ore on a U.S.-flag vessel for each inch lost when channels are not adequately dredged. The foreign-flag vessels frequenting the Lakes can forfeit 116 tons for each inch of draft lost.



Dredging on the Great Lakes

Ending the dredging crisis is GLMTF’s top priority. Decades of inadequate funding for dredging have left the Great Lakes Navigation System clogged with more than 15 million cubic yards of sediment, despite the fact the Federal government taxes cargo to pay for dredging. Relief is in sight. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 requires the Federal government to increase funding for dredging annually, but Congress must appropriate the funds each year. GLMTF focuses the bulk of its efforts to restore adequate funding for dredging Great Lakes ports and waterways.

Celebrating Outstanding Legislators

Each year, GLMTF recognizes members of the Great Lakes congressional delegation who have made significant contributions to keeping waterborne commerce on the Lakes a key component of the nation’s transportation system by presenting them a Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award. The selection process is not easy, on Capitol Hill the Great Lakes delegation is one of the best.


U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow Lifetime Achievement Supporting U.S. Great Lakes Shipping

WASHINGTON D.C.  (April 10, 2024) – On Wednesday, April 10, 2024, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) recognized the significant contributions Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow has made throughout her Congressional career protecting the Great Navigation System and supporting American jobs with investment in U.S.-flagged Great Lakes shipping.

Senator Stabenow, who co-chairs the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has been the driving force behind the protection of our largest freshwater resource and the maritime highway that supports U.S. jobs through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) which was first authored in 2010 and has since received $3.8 billion in funding.

The GLRI has been a major success with funds provided for over 6,800 projects throughout the region protecting the Great Lakes and its waterways against its greatest threats, and addressing problems that impact public health and safety.  “Our U.S. sailors, port, shipyard, and manufacturing employees depend on the Great Lakes and its connecting waterways for the raw material supply chain to support good paying jobs and their families live here too.  Senator Stabenow’s work for over a decade has proved to be a game changer ensuring our fresh waters are restored and protected for generations to come,” stated Jim Weakley, Vice President of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force and President of the Lake Carriers Association.

Senator Stabenow has been a critical champion for arguably the most important North American infrastructure project in several years with the construction of a large new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigational lock in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan.  Nearly all domestically produced high strength steel is made with iron ore that transits the current large lock, the Poe, built in 1969.  A study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security concluded that a six-month unscheduled outage of the Poe Lock would result in 11 million jobs lost and a $1.1 trillion economic impact.  Recognizing the vital national economic importance and the reality that it is an aging single point of failure for North American manufacturing, Senator Stabenow tirelessly advocated for funding authorization and continued efficient funding of the estimated $3.2 billion mega project securing large annual appropriations to keep the project on track.


The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force is grateful for Senator Stabenow’s service to our county, the Great Lakes Region, and the State of Michigan.  Senator Stabenow is truly a champion for the Great Lakes watershed and the healthy marine transportation system it supports.

The presentation of the award was made at Senator Stabenow’s Washington D.C. office surrounded by many thankful Great Lakes Maritime Task Force members.

About Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with nearly 80 members, is the largest coalition to speak for the Great Lakes Navigation System.  Advocating for domestic and international shipping, its members represent labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. The Great Lakes commercial maritime industry supports more than 147,000 American jobs in eight Great Lakes states and generates more than $36 billion in economic activity.


U.S. Representative Pete Stauber Named 2023 Legislator of the Year

DULUTH, MINNESOTA (August 18, 2023) – On Friday, August 18, 2023, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) recognized Congressman Pete Stauber for his staunch support of the Great Lakes Navigation System at the Clure Public Marine Terminal in Duluth, Minnesota.

Congressman Stauber continues to champion the miners that work on the northern tier of the Great Lakes supplying the critical raw materials that drive the national economy and make the Great Lakes region America’s industrial powerhouse.  The millions of tons of iron ore extracted from Minnesota’s Mesabi Range is transported by U.S.-owned, U.S-crewed, and U.S.-flagged vessels to steel mills in the southern Great Lakes contributing to more than 147,000 American jobs and $36 billion in economic impact.

Congressman Stauber believes in American workers and fully supports the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the “Jones Act.”  The critical law ensures U.S. cargo is carried by U.S. vessels between U.S. ports keeping our maritime industry strong with 650,000 sustained American jobs.  “Congressman Stauber is invested in America and its dedicated workforce.  I applaud his selection for his tenacious support of the 4th Sea Coast,” stated John D. Baker, International Longshoremen’s Association and President of GLMTF.

The Great Lakes are cold in the winter and when ice forms it can impede commercial vessels, endanger sailors and their ships, and bring North American manufacturing to a halt without adequate federal icebreaking.  Congressman Stauber continues to support icebreaking resources for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) on the Great Lakes endorsing authorization and appropriations for a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker for the agency.  “Congressman Stauber understands that raw materials from Minnesota must be efficiently and safely moved to manufacturing facilities on the southern Great Lakes, no matter the harsh environmental conditions posed in winter.  The USCG Great Lakes heavy icebreaker is critical but acquiring the asset hasn’t been an empty net goal requiring some hard third period work which Congressman Stauber continues to do,” stated Jim Weakley, Lake Carriers’ Association and Vice President of GLMTF.

One of the most important efforts for the entire Great Lakes Navigation System has been the construction of the new large navigational lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  Congressman Stauber has been instrumental in educating fellow members of Congress on the importance of the lock to the Great Lakes region and the nation as a whole.  With only one 62-year-old large operational lock, the new lock provides much needed resiliency which would avert a catastrophic economic disaster should the current lock fail.

“As someone who has spent their entire life living around Lake Superior, I understand the powerful impact these incredible bodies of water bring to our local and national economies. Ensuring safe and reliable shipping through the Great Lakes is one of my top priorities serving in Congress, from advocating for the creation of a new lock at the Soo Locks in Michigan to supporting our hard-working union workforce in the shipping industry to ensuring our Coast Guard is well-equipped with icebreakers for winter. I am honored to be named the Legislator of the Year by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force and will always advocate for our Great Lakes,” stated Congressman Stauber.

The presentation of the award was made at the Clure Public Marine Terminal.  Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority Deb DeLuca stated, “Congressman Stauber is a fitting choice for this prestigious award, given his longtime advocacy on behalf of Great Lakes shipping and the nation’s domestic supply chain. His support helps Great Lakes ports remain strong and vibrant links in America’s supply chain, and we’re especially pleased that the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force is honoring a legislator from our own backyard, a former commissioner on the Duluth Seaway Port Authority board, and someone who is an effective advocate for regional industry.”

About Great Lakes Maritime Task Force
The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with nearly 80 members, is the largest coalition to speak for the Great Lakes Navigation System.  Advocating for domestic and international shipping, its members represent labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. The Great Lakes commercial maritime industry supports more than 147,000 American jobs in eight Great Lakes states and generates more than $36 billion in economic activity.



We’re stronger when we work together. GLMTF membership is an excellent way to ensure your company and industry’s voice is part of the ongoing conversation surrounding Great Lakes shipping. Membership is open to all companies and organizations that rely on or are involved in domestic and/or international Great Lakes shipping.