Port of Oswego shifts its business from water to land

Jun 28, 2013

Jonathan Daniels warns it's about to get real loud just as a fork lift drops a huge block of aluminum. Sure enough, the block creates a thud as the forklift goes back to pick up another piece.

Daniels, the executive director of the Port of Oswego, is making his rounds. Despite the port's prime real estate at the end of the Oswego Canal and the first deep water port on Lake Ontario for ships coming in from the St. Lawrence Seaway, there aren't any ships docked here this day.

But workers are still busy. Inside a warehouse, another crew is filling up a railcar with grain.

The port has evolved from just handling cargo carried on waterways, to be a distribution center. The port is a 50-50 mix between water and land based shipping, Daniels explains.

"Which provides us an opportunity to maintain a level of sustainability," he says.

The other half of that freight is being moved by rail or truck. Daniels says they didn’t handle a single railcar in 2004 or 2005. This year they’ll unload and fill up a thousand.

"So we’ve really tried to even out what we do here day in and day out," he says.

It's helped the port increase revenues each of the past few years.

Some of the port’s busiest months are now in the winter – when marine traffic is shut down. Then, the port moves out road salt and grain.

The Port of Oswego still off-loads between 80 and 120 ships every year. And freight moving through the state’s canal system is expected to hit a two decade high this season.

Daniels says that’s pretty good for business, too.