Door County, Great Lakes Maritime Hub

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Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (Fincantieri)

Posted on June 15, 2022 2:27 PM by

Chad Fuhrman







Wisconsin may not come to mind when discussing the shipping industry, but with more than 800 miles of Great Lakes coastline and an additional 200 miles on the Mississippi River, the state is one of the centers most industrious maritime activity on the “fresh coast” of the country. .” From huge commercial vessels over 1,000 feet in length to sport fishing vessels of all sizes, the region thrives on the water and the opportunities offered by all flavors of the maritime industry.


A fraction of the state’s maritime talents and treasures were recently showcased during a weekend-long press tour on Door County’s “Maritime Past, Present, and Future.” Surrounded by 300 miles of the state’s Great Lakes coastline, Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula is home to many maritime industries whose reach extends beyond the region and beyond the United States.


The tour included visits to some of the museums and historic sites that dot the area and showcase the area’s nautical history, from the birchbark canoes of the early Native American populations to the shipbuilding boom of World War II to the post-war bulk carriers. Historic lighthouses, some still in operation, steer ships away from the dangerous shallows and dangers of the Porte des Mortes as they sail through one of the dozens of shipyards or marinas in the area, to the port of Green Bay or further. south to Great Lakes ports like Milwaukee or Chicago.


Historically, Door County was a maritime hub for Great Lakes shipping and fishing, and many of its towns and cities began as tiny fishing ports. Among an array of fascinating offerings (including some of the region’s hundreds of known shipwrecks), the museums trace the region’s commercial fishing tradition with the wooden fishing boats and traditional fishing gear of the many commercial fisheries in the region.


One such company featured on the tour was Bailey’s Harbor Fish Company. With its origins in the 19th century, the family business continues to thrive as one of the most important commercial fishing businesses in the region. Company owners Dennis Hickey and Todd Stuth told visitors how the company’s long history of sustainable fishing is guiding its future as it serves not only local markets, but also Chicago, New York and the Countries. -Down. The company’s founding in cooperation with regional players means its fresh fish isn’t the only thing in demand. The company has earned such a reputation that its expertise is sought after by state and federal agencies and universities to support research projects across the country.


Of course, a maritime industry, no matter where it is, requires maintenance facilities. Tour participants had the opportunity to tour the headquarters of the marine industry‘s eponymous Marine Travelift. Since creating the world’s first mobile boat winch in the 1940s, Marine Travelift has become the marine industry’s leader in mobile lifting and hauling worldwide with over 4,500 units in service today. The company designs and engineers each lift, towing motor and transport in-house to meet the specific needs of its customers, and provides bespoke solutions worldwide through a global network of distributors and expert technicians.


The highlight of the visit, however, was a behind-the-scenes look at the 63-acre Fincantieri Bay shipbuilding site in Sturgeon Bay. Fincantieri Marine Group operates not one but two shipyards in Wisconsin, including Bay Shipbuilding. For one day each year, the huge complex opens its doors to the public for guided tours by the yard’s current and former shipbuilding professionals.


Bay Shipbuilding is famous for building the monster bulk carriers of the Great Lakes steel industry, a few of which were available to view during the tour. The shipyard, however, has full-service shipbuilding and repair facilities for vessels across the maritime industry, building and servicing articulating tugs, dredges, ferries, platform support vessels, as well as wind farms and specialized vessels. Bay Shipbuilding also supports US Navy projects in cooperation with its sister shipyard Green Bay in Marinette, Wisconsin.


Visiting Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula and its maritime attractions was a first-hand look at a hidden gem in the maritime industry. Nestled in a beautifully scenic region that caters to summer recreational travelers, the region’s workforce and industrial capabilities offer a glimpse, not only of the past, but also of the region’s influence of Great Britain. Lakes on the maritime future of the country.



The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.



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