The Illinois International Port District is the port authority for the Port of Chicago. The Illinois International Port District operates Foreign Trade Zone No (FTZ) 22. The FTZ has two general purpose zones at Lake Calumet Harbor and near O'Hare Airport. The Calumet Zone contains 400 thousand square feet of warehouse space and an additional 20 acres of land for development of manufacturing, assembly, handling, processing, and/or storage of foreign goods.
The modern Port of Chicago was born in 1921 when the Illinois legislature passed the Lake Calumet Harbor Act authorizing a deep water port. Regular overseas shipping service began in 1935. In 1946, the US Congress authorized a project to encourage barge traffic between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
Illinois' General Assembly created the Chicago Regional Port District in 1951 to oversee development. The next year, the State legislature made the District an independent municipal corporation with title to about 1500 acres at Lake Calumet. The Port of Chicago officially opened in 1958.
The Port of Chicago is governed by a Board of Directors with nine members. Four of them are appointed by the State's Governor, and five are appointed by the Mayor. They are appointed for five years, and their appointments must be confirmed by the State Senate (for the Governor's appointees) and by the City Council (for the Mayor's appointees).
The Port of Chicago is a crossroads for the United States, making it a major transportation hub for all modes of travel. Six of the country's major railroads and five federal highways meet in the Port of Chicago, and the airports in Chicago are vital to the global aviation system. Long before airplanes, trains, and trucks moved cargo, the Port of Chicago was a major component of the Nation's transportation network.
The modern Port of Chicago links the inland river system and the Great Lakes to the global market. Deep-draft commercial vessels travel the St. Lawrence Seaway between the Port of Chicago and the Atlantic Ocean, while barges carry goods between the Port of Chicago and the Gulf of Mexico on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
As the leading port on the Great Lakes for general cargo, the Port of Chicago moves more than 26 million tons of goods and natural resources that are produced in central and Midwest America to the global market. Direct connections with city and national rail and highway networks, the Port of Chicago is an important inter-modal center that benefits from ongoing investments in port infrastructure by both the City and the State.
Today, the Iroquois Landing Lakefront Terminus specializes in intermodal container service. At the mouth of the Calumet River, the terminal covers 100 open paved acres and contains 3000 feet of ship and barge berths at 27 feet deep. The terminal has two transit sheds covering over 100 thousand square feet each with direct truck and rail access.
The Lake Calumet terminals are at the junction of the Grand and Little Calumet Rivers about six miles from Lake Michigan. On the southwest quadrant are more than 315 thousand square feet of transit sheds and about 3000 feet of ship and barge berthing space.
The Port of Chicago at Lake Calumet owns two grain elevators with a combined capacity for 14 million bushels. It also has capacity to store 800 thousand barrels of liquid bulk.
The Port of Chicago's widely diverse economic base and its central location on the North American continent made it a key distribution point for many different types of cargo. Among the cargoes most frequently handled there are steel, grain, scrap metals, graphite, zinc, silicon, stone, coke, lead, ore, cement, sugar, and vegetable oils.