The international shipping season is officially underway, as the first ocean vessel of the year arrived Wednesday at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. The BBC Mont Blanc carried nearly 900 tons of wind turbine tower sections shipped from Spain.

Two 20 tower components will ultimately end up at a wind farm in Illinois. Thirty workers from the International Longshoremen's Association and the International Union of Operating Engineers are unloading the cargo, which takes two days. The port says heavy-lift and large-dimensional cargo shipments increased nearly 25 percent in 2016.

Port Director Ian Hirt says the arrival of the first ocean ship of the season is an exciting time for the port and local businesses. He calls the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway each spring a "symbol of optimism because it reestablishes a direct connection to global markets and new business opportunities."

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor handled nearly 2.6 million tons of cargo last year, completing the highest three-year total in its history. The port says its maritime operations generate nearly $4.9 billion in economic activity each year, and support more than 39,000 jobs.