‘Slicing the Cake:’ Diversification in the Port of Cleveland

Credits: Ronan Furuta/Unsplash

Project cargo is on the rise throughout the Great Lakes, in the United States (US). Dave Gutheil, chief commercial officer at the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority since 2018, discusses recent trends, developments and challenges in the port.

Port of Cleveland

The Port of Cleveland is located at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on Lake Erie, in the midwestern state of Ohio. Roughly 13 million tons of cargo move through this bulk freight and container shipping port each year.

Our main trade lane is between the Midwest and northern and central Europe, specifically places like Antwerp and Rotterdam,” explains Gutheil. Indeed, the Great Lakes are connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Great Lakes Saint-Lawrence Seaway.

We also see frequent barge movements to and from various ports within the Great Lakes between the U.S. and Canada. Periodically, we also have heavy lift international vessels that come through the seaway, and their cargo gets transhipped to a barge going either upriver here in northeast Ohio or to some other ports on the Great Lakes,” he adds.

In addition to ship and barge connections, the port is well connected to road and rail. “Typically the oversized truck route is the most common mode of transportation for cargo leaving the terminal for destinations that are within 150 to 200 miles (241 to 321 kilometres) If there is a new construction project going up and there’s rail siding at the location, then the cargo may move from our port via rail to final destination. I would say probably 75 to 80 per cent of cargo get on and off the port by truck, and probably 15 to 20 per cent by rail,” he estimates.

Project cargo on the rise

From a general sector standpoint, I think we’ll start seeing more activity within the great lakes, in regards to project cargo. Thus far, Ohio has not really kept up in the wind sector like some of the other states. So, Ohio ports like Cleveland, Toledo or Ashtabula, for example, haven’t handled a lot of wind energy related cargo, compared to places like Burns Harbor, Indiana to Duluth, Minnesota,” explains Gutheil. That could be changing in the near future due to changes in state policy.

We are however very involved in the wind sector and project cargo because we’re trying to get some offshore wind going here on Lake Erie. We hope something substantial will be happening in that sector. The majority of project cargo business that we’ve handled has been larger generators or transformers, pieces of machinery which typically will be travelling to destinations up to 300 hundred miles (321 to 482 kilometres) from the port,” he adds.

In general, project cargo continues to grow on the great lakes, especially the last couple years because there’s been so much congestion at the big coastal ports. Slowly, parts of the industry are learning that if they can get their cargo as close to the final destination as possible via the water, it will generally be less costly for them, and more efficient from a movement standpoint. Moving cargo through several states also means dealing with the various rules, and regulations that apply there,” says Gutheil.

Read the full interview here.

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Source: Project Cargo Journal


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