2009-05-16 / Top News

Island Freight Services To Move to Renovated Coal Dock

Makes Room for Cruise Ships, But Customs Rules Must Be Cleared First
By Karen Gould

Some of the new wood pylons on the Coal Dock are visible from the water. The dock will become the freight center for Arnold Transit when the renovation project is complete. The transition will help relieve congestion of passengers, freight, and drays that now all use the Arnold Dock. Some of the new wood pylons on the Coal Dock are visible from the water. The dock will become the freight center for Arnold Transit when the renovation project is complete. The transition will help relieve congestion of passengers, freight, and drays that now all use the Arnold Dock. Work on Mackinac Island's Coal Dock, more than a century old, is underway to replace lumber planking with concrete so freight operations can be moved to that dock. This would also make room for scheduled cruise ship visits to the Island this summer, but that plan has hit a snag as organizers have learned the Island isn't set up for international passengers to clear customs here.

One by one since 2005, from the waterline up, the old wood pylons on the Coal Dock have been replaced with treated lumber. Since its construction in the 1800s, the dock has been battered by winter ice floes, withstood the pounding of Lake Huron waves during seasonal wind storms, and has supported tons of coal through the years.

The dock has been owned by Arnold Transit Company for more than 100 years. Its renovation is part of a plan to move all of the company's freight shipments to the dock, said Bob Brown, general manager for Arnold Transit. Freight now is received at the end of the Arnold Dock, the same dock where ferry boats moor when arriving from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.

Owned by Arnold Transit Company for more than 100 years, the Coal Dock has been undergoing renovations since 2005. Work includes replacing the lumber plank deck with concrete. As of Wednesday, May 6, about two-thirds of the project is finished. Eventually, the dock will handle the company's freight deliveries. Owned by Arnold Transit Company for more than 100 years, the Coal Dock has been undergoing renovations since 2005. Work includes replacing the lumber plank deck with concrete. As of Wednesday, May 6, about two-thirds of the project is finished. Eventually, the dock will handle the company's freight deliveries. Structurally, the Coal Dock is completely new except for a small section next to the hardware store on the southwest side. That section will be replaced next winter.

New pilings, which docking boats rest against, will be put in this month.

About two-thirds of the old lumber planks that comprise the wooden deck have been replaced with concrete. By this summer, the remaining onethird of the deck will be converted to concrete.

Moving freight operations to the Coal Dock is hoped to help alleviate congestion on the Arnold Dock, said Mr. Brown. Drays will pick up the freight from the Coal Dock and deliver the goods to hotels, shops, and homes.

Freight deliveries to the dock this summer could begin once a ramp is installed at the end of the dock to accommodate freight boats like the Corsair. The ramp will be fabricated in St. Ignace, transported to the Island, and installed near the end of the dock.

Customs Clearance Concern May Change Cruise Ships Schedule

Moving freight operations to the dock also would make room for cruise ships, including the 290-foot Clelia II from the Great Lakes Cruise Company. The ship has 50 passenger suites and is scheduled to dock on the Island this summer, however, it may not, said Mr. Brown, owing to challenges with providing a facility for customs clearance.

The ship is expected to sail from Canada and the first port of entry in the U.S. is Mackinac Island, which means passengers will have to clear customs when they arrive on the Island. The problem, said Mr. Brown, is that customs is requiring a 13,000-square-foot sterile receiving center for customs clearance. The area must be covered and include restrooms, hold rooms, search rooms, and interview rooms. Mr. Brown has a thick binder of custom regulations that must be met for the boat to dock on the Island.

"I just kind of laughed when they handed to me," he said. "At this time, there is not much I can do about it. First of all, I don't know that the city would let me build a building at the end of the dock."

Navitrans, the company that schedules the boats, is planning to have up to six boats cruising the Great Lakes within the next few years, all wanting to dock on the Island.

"If the price is right," said Mr. Brown, "we might look into putting in a facility."

The agency also requires that no one have access to the passengers until they clear customs.

"Basically, I have to tell the cruise ship, you can't come in," he said. "I don't have the facilities, which of course nobody wants to hear because we'd love to have them come in."

Mr. Brown is working with the agency and local officials to seek a solution, which could include having the vessel clear customs at another location or putting in place at the end of the dock a temporary facility that will meet requirements.

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