Although pockets of ice buildup may hinder navigation for a few more weeks, another shipping season has begun on the Great Lakes. 

The region is a vital conduit for companies in a wide range of industries—from grain producers to steelmakers to salt miners. The lakes also make it possible to safely transport over-sized cargo like wind turbines and machinery that would otherwise have a much longer journey on congested highways. Altogether, more than 160 million metric tons of U.S. and Canadian cargo are delivered by Great Lakes vessels each year, generating roughly $35 billion in business revenue and directly supporting nearly 230,000 jobs.