June 13 - Cargo ships are a common sight at the Port of Milwaukee, but the arrival of the Maersk Illinois recently stood out amongst the port's typical marine traffic as the ship, a US-flag multipurpose vessel with heavy lift cranes, became the first Amer

As an oceangoing vessel, Maersk Illinois's navigation of the St. Lawrence Seaway demonstrated its versatility and flexibility. "The loading in Milwaukee simplified the logistics of an otherwise complicated move, and it has served to demonstrate the value of our service to US exporters," noted Dave Harriss, director of Ship Management and Chartering at Maersk Line, Limited.

The shipment of two P&H rope shovels, financed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, required the US-flag vessel to carry nearly 8,000 cu m of machinery bound for a Siberian mining project.

According to the port's spokesman, Jeff Fleming, Maersk Illinois is the first US-flag vessel since 1981 to arrive in Milwaukee by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway, marking an achievement of historic significance.

"A U.S. flagged vessel hasn't carried cargo out of the Port of Milwaukee for decades," Fleming said.

Maersk Illinois's voyage to Milwaukee has attracted the attention of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who touted the benefits of U.S. Export-Import Bank financing in a blog post by highlighting the Milwaukee port call.

The mining shovels aboard the Maersk Illinois are part of an ongoing relationship between Milwaukee-based P&H andJoy Global with the Russian Federation's coal industry. A third shovel is slated for transport from Milwaukee in September, to be carried by the same vessel or its twin, the Maersk Texas.

Maersk Illinois and Maersk Texas are the two ships making up Maersk-Rickmers U.S. Flag Project Carrier, or Maersk-Rickmers for short. Maersk-Rickmers is a partnership between Maersk Line, Limited and Rickmers-Linie (America), Inc., and it combines the capabilities of both companies to form a reliable global carrier for large and heavy cargo. The newly-built 19,592 dwt vessels support Maersk- Rickmers' worldwide breakbulk and project cargo shipping operations.

Maersk Illinois came under the U.S. flag in December 2011, completing two voyages to West Africa before its current journey. Thereafter, she will carry commercial cargo to the Middle East. She departed Milwaukee on June 5, and the voyage from Milwaukee to Russia's west coast is expected to take approximately two weeks. Upon arrival, the shovels will be loaded onto rail cars to complete their journey to the Kuzbass coal mine in western Siberia.