(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority recently was one of six ports recognized by the U.S. Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

The port received a Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award for increasing international cargo tonnage during the 2021 season.

“We are honored in partnership with Carmeuse, our a dock operator, to be recognized for our efforts in increasing international tonnage through the Port of Erie,” said Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority Executive Director Brenda Sandberg. “This increase is attributable to the fact that the port of Erie and Carmeuse are being recognized in the Great Lakes system as being a point of entry for wind energy components that are built overseas. We anticipate that this growth will continue for the upcoming shipping season.”

While coastal ports were plagued with issues during the pandemic, the freshwater ports in the Great Lakes maintained consistent service.

“Certainly there have been logistical challenges that were well reported, but those occurred on coastal ports. Here on the Great Lakes we have the capacity to accept international and interlake vessels without delay,” Sandberg said. It’s not, however, apples to apples when comparing coastal ports to Great Lakes ports. “We can’t accept the big vessels that go to the coastal ports because they have to go through our lock system, and that lock system is restricted in size.”

It’s the seventh time Erie’s port has received the award.

According to the announcement, some 237,000 jobs and about $35 billion in economic activity are supported annually through shipping on the seaway system. The Pacesetter Award was established in 1992 to recognize U.S. Ports shipping through the seaway, and it is named after former GLS Logistics Director Robert J. Lewis.

“The winners honored today showcase the critical role of Great Lakes ports in moving goods through our supply chain – and reflect the skill and dedication of the port workers who literally keep our economy afloat,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in a Great Lakes Seaway (GLS) announcement.

The other ports earning a Pacesetter Award are Ports of Indiana – Burns Harbor, the Port of Chicago, the Port of Cleveland, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, and Port of Oswego Authority of New York.

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“The sustained level of high performance is a testament not only to the Seaway System’s importance as a maritime supply chain, but also to the hard work and resiliency of the dedicated men and women throughout our Great Lakes port community,” said GLS Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook.