SEARSPORT, Maine — The port in this seafaring town is the second-busiest one in the state of Maine, but people who live around it might not realize it is even there given Mack Point’s location.
That’s why it seemed important to members of the Searsport-Bucksport chapter of the Propeller Club of the United States to hold the area’s first National Maritime Day celebration in May.
“Most people probably don’t appreciate how active and important the local ports, the commercial seaports, are,” David Gelinas of the Penobscot Bay & River Pilots Association said recently. “In Portland, you see the tankers. You see the ships. When you drive through Searsport, Mack Point is off the beaten path … I think it’s important for people to reconnect with Maine’s important historic maritime roots, and the economic importance it continues to bring to the region.”
The port at Mack Point has existed for more than a century and boasts a nationally connected rail corridor that goes right to the docks, said Gelinas, who also is president of the Penobscot Bay & River Pilots Association. It’s been used to import fuel since World War II, and a pipeline ran from the port all the way to the former Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County.
Cargo that enters and leaves Searsport today includes heating oil, gasoline, asphalt, road salt, gypsum rock, windmill components, clay slurry for the paper industry and more. All that activity at the port means that many companies do business there, Gelinas said. Many of those companies will be part of Maritime Day — including Penobscot Bay Tractor Tug Co., which will hold a demonstration to show off its water cannons. Other companies and organizations that will be exhibiting are Sprague Energy Corp., Prock Marine Corp., oil spill response vessel Alvin McNeil, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Maine Port Authority and the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
The celebration is set to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18, at Heritage Park in Belfast, with other activities to include the United States Coast Guard honoring mariners lost at sea, pilot gig rowing, boat trips and folk music.
During the day, the Propeller Club will present its Maritime Person of the Year Award to Peter Vigue, chairman of Cianbro Corp. The club chose Vigue because of his influence in improving infrastructure in the region, his appreciation for the strategic significance of Maine’s working ports, and his ability to bring jobs and opportunity to the state, Gelinas said.
The bay pilot said he’s looking forward to the chance to celebrate the port.
“The seaports actually provide transportation that’s a magnitude more efficient than railroads,” he said. “When you combine those two modes — the rail and the sea — then you’re really getting the maximum benefit of moving things efficiently with lowest environmental impact and cost savings.”