Total Employment


Total Business Revenue


Total Taxes Paid



Illinois Relies on Great Lakes-Seaway Shipping

The state of Illinois borders 63 miles of Lake Michigan. This shoreline is dominated by Chicago - the largest city in the Great Lakes Seaway region. More than 16 million tons of inbound and outbound cargoes are handled at the state’s deep-draft ports and terminals.

Great Lakes-Seaway shipping is critical to the dynamic economy of northeastern Illinois. For example, a variety of local manufacturers depend on waterborne transportation for delivery of semi-finished steel products such as coil, wire and slab imported from Europe, South America and Asia. Low-sulfur coal mined in Montana and Wyoming is railed to Chicago where vessels load it for delivery to electric utilities for power generation. Bulk cement and gypsum is brought by ship to Waukegan for use in the manufacture of construction materials. State, county and municipal transportation agencies rely on lake ships to deliver large quantities of salt for winter road deicing.

Economic Impacts (In 2018 USD)

JobsPersonal IncomeBusiness RevenueLocal PurchasesTotal Taxes Paid
6,476$522 million$486 million$89 million$203 million

Investments (In 2013 USD)

Invested in Illinois port, terminal and waterway infrastructure
$57 million

Illinois Port Activity

PortAnnual TonnageMajor Cargoes Handled
Chicago*16,866,000coal, fuel oil, gasoline, asphalt, wood chips, iron ore, limestone, sand/gravel, steel scrap, salt, cement, pig iron, iron & steel, wheat, soybeans, sugar
Waukegan54,000gypsum, sand/gravel

*includes facilities along the Chicago River, Calumet River, and Lake Calumet


  • The Economic Impacts of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Navigation System, 2011 – Martin Associates
  • The Economic Impacts of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region, 2017 – Martin Associates
  • Infrastructure Investment Survey of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System, 2015 – Martin Associates
  • Waterborne Commerce of the United States, Part III, 2013 – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Waterborne Commerce of the United States, 2018 – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


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