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    Port of Cleveland Provides Great Lakes with the Only Scheduled Maritime Access to Europe

    “2015 was a great year for the Port of Cleveland,” said Port of Cleveland Board Chairman Chris Ronayne. “The Board of Directors is encouraged by the progress we have made to position ourselves as a global, green port on the Great Lakes.

    The Port of Cleveland is looking forward to another year of dynamic growth in 2016 as it continues to operate as the only international seaport — Cleveland is the only Great Lakes city in the Midwest providing direct container shipping from Cleveland to Europe.

    Since launching in 2014, the Cleveland-Europe Express (CEE) liner service operated by Dutch ship owner Spliethoff Group has positioned the Port as a leader on the Great Lakes, and recent data supports the value of the strategic investment.

    Due to increasing demand, the CEE doubled the frequency of its service between the Port of Cleveland and the Port of Antwerp last year. As compared to 2014, the amount of container volume increased four-fold and overall tonnage increased five-fold. [1] The CEE handles an assortment of containerized cargo including scrap metal, foodstuffs, retail goods, and even machinery.

    The increase in trips and cargo wasn’t the only new thing about the CEE last year. The Port has a new relationship with Amsterdam-based Spliethoff Group, its vessel partner. [2]

    In 2014 “we chartered the vessel, which is equivalent to renting a car, although on a much larger scale," David Gutheil (the Port’s VP of Maritime and Logistics) said. "Now, we’re basically an investor in the service. In 2015, our investment was capped at $2.5 million, but we were guaranteed at least two calls per month all season.  Our investment will continue to decrease in 2016 and 2017.  At the conclusion of the 2017 season, the service will run on its own without our investment."

    The next step to developing Cleveland into a formidable international port in the middle of the U.S. will depend on our local businesses seeing how a direct route to Europe will make it easier for them to create and grow markets abroad. When a ship docks in the Port of Cleveland, its full of imports —then when it leaves for the Port of Antwerp, it’s usually only half-full with goods from Cleveland area businesses.

    More area businesses probably have not considered exporting because it’s not the easiest endeavor, especially for smaller companies—And the journey to Europe even more cumbersome. Previous to the CEE companies would have to ship exports by rail or truck to an East Coast port, where their products could sit for a week or two before getting clearance for the journey to Europe. Now, with one phone call the CEE takes care of everything. Spliethoff and the Port of Cleveland often personally meet one-on-one with local businesses to help them see the advantages of direct shipping.  With this lack of hassle companies can take their product from Cleveland— tomorrow to Antwerp, and then around the world.

    Due to a mild winter, the Port of Cleveland welcomed its first vessel of the year on May 31, 2016, the Floretgracht—part of the Cleveland-Europe Express, thus starting the shipping season two weeks earlier than last year. The vessel also carried two new cranes that will service the Port’s docs and increase speed and efficiency for its clients.

    The 2016 shipping season is expected to continue the trend for increased shipping growth for primarily three reasons:

    1. 1.   CEE provides the Northeast Ohio region direct maritime access to European markets, with ships calling in Cleveland at least twice monthly and potentially increasing service to weekly runs. 

    2. 2.   The Port of Cleveland can save up to 10 days on door to door transit when compared to moving goods through East Coast ports and is a "timely and cost-effective alternative to dridlocked eastern seaboard ports." [3]

    3. 3.   Due to short-sea barge capabilities and other operational innovations. 

    The region tends to think of waterfront development in terms of public access, it's important to remember that a busy port with frequent ships only adds to the vitality of our region by expanding our manufacturers’ markets and attracting foreign investment.

    Cleveland has become a seaport— an international port in the midst of the USA. On the horizon is the vision of Cleveland developing into a thriving international port and the hub for the Midwest -- a logistical hub where all trade comes together.

    The Port of Cleveland was presented with a Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter award by the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) at its October 2015 monthly board meeting. The Pacesetter award recognizes the dramatic growth in international cargo, generated by the Port’s Cleveland Europe Express  liner service and its traditional line of non-containerized steel cargo. Operated by Dutch ship owner Spliethoff Group, the CEE provides the Great Lakes only scheduled maritime access to European markets.

    The growth produced by the Cleveland Europe Express is “quite exceptional” said SLSDC Administrator Betty Sutton, who presented the award.

    “The Port of Cleveland is honored to receive the Pacesetter Award,” said Port President and CEO Will Friedman. “It’s more proof that our strategic investment in the liner service and our docks are paying off, and helping Northeast Ohio businesses connect to and compete in the global economy.”



    [1] Davis, Jade. (March 10, 2016). Port of Cleveland Board of Directors Meets and Approves Key Maritime Initiatives. Retrieved from:

    [2] Perkins, Olivera. (June 10, 2015). Cleveland-Europe Express doubles calls at Port of Cleveland. Retrieved from:

    [3] Editorial Board. (December 16, 2015). Port of Cleveland helps keep city afloat: editorial. Retrieved from:

    [4] Short sea shipping commonly refers to coast-wise waterborne transportation of freight and or passengers by navigable waterways without crossing an ocean. For Cleveland the short-sea barge move is a seamless rail-water logistics transfer created by the partnership between, the Port of Cleveland, the Great Lakes Towing Company, Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation, makes shipping more cost and time effective, and provides international and domestic shippers a better and greener intermodal route to the Midwest. One ship can carry the load of 870 trucks (25,000 metric tons) or 225 railcars saving on fuel consumption and reducing emissions.

    Have questions? Contact: Stephanie Phillibert