Ships repaired at Port of Milwaukee over winter months

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Winter gives us a pretty cool opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the biggest ships on the Great Lakes.

It may seem surprising to see an icy harbor bustling with business. But according to Tom Balistreri winter is a hot time for work. He said, “Basically we have 2 months to get 3 months of work done. So we’re working two shifts, basically around the clock.”

The owner of Midwest Maritime said some of the biggest ships on the Great Lakes come to the Port of Milwaukee for repairs. For the six ships, a few dozen workers were called in to do the overhaul. Balistreri added, “We have a lot of local talent here, welders, electricians, general repair people. We do have some technical people that come from out-of-town and out-of-state.”

Crews fix everything from minor kitchen repairs to things a little more technical. “Right now in this particular area we are putting staging in the upper reaches of the ballast tank for inspection reasons. We just finished rebuilding a gearbox, a lot of conveyor system work and anything from kitchen galley stove to renewing carpeting,” said Balistreri.

On average each ship receives about a half million dollars worth of intense work. The massive vessels are about a thousand feet long and primarily carry iron ore. So workers are being diligent as they prepare the ships to run for the entire shipping season. Balistreri said, “We’ll be leaving on the 21st of March. In a perfect world, they won’t shut off until January 15th.”

Just a few more weeks of extensive maintenance and the ships will be in tip-top shape ready to set sail.

It’s pretty rare that we get to see these huge ships from this vantage point because some of the bigger vessels on the Great Lakes usually don’t stop on Jones Island during the regular sailing season.