By Alex Binkley

Cleveland Europe Express has found its niche moving containers between North America and Europe, and its partners have signed a new two year agreement to keep building the service. The agreement commits the Spliethoff Group to provide at least two sailings a month, says Jade Davis, Vice-President of External Affairs with Port of Cleveland. “However, we anticipate that most months could see more than two calls, given the expected increase in container volumes.”

Torin Swartout of Spliethoff said, “Since our start-up in 2014, the CEE service has seen exponential growth thanks to strong support from the shippers in several market segments, such as project, heavylift, container, roro, breakbulk and bulk. Our modern, geared, vessels are suitable for carrying all of these types of cargoes. “Last year we averaged three sailings per month, and this year we are expecting to do more,” he added. “Port of Cleveland continues to upgrade its facilities by purchasing two new container cranes and adding a new warehouse at the CEE terminal operated by CPort. These improvements will speed production and allow us to offer greater value to our clientele.”

The service between Cleveland and Antwerp also calls at the Valport Marine Services Terminal in Valleyfield, Que. inbound and outbound to serve Canadian customers. Valport subsidiary C-Port Maritime is the container terminal operator in Cleveland. Spliethoff and the Port launched the operation with a monthly call in 2014 and last year stepped it up to twice a month in response to increased business, and at times during the season, Spliethoff employed extra ships when the traffic volume exceeded the capacity of the scheduled sailings. As well, Spliethoff organized alternate service for the winter months when the Seaway is closed, consisting of a sailing between Antwerp and the port of Baltimore with a rail connection to Cleveland.

Container traffic has risen by 500 per cent since the service began, the Port says, and project and other cargoes have tripled. The Port would like the Seaway navigation season extended to at least match the same period as the January 15 to March 15 closure of the Soo Locks. Even a few more weeks of shipping would make a great difference to the CEE service, which operates ice-strengthened ships.

Spliethoff says, “Shippers are getting frequency, reliability, continuity, speed and competitive solutions both for breakbulk, project cargo and containers, in both directions. Spliethoff ships made more than 60 port calls within the Great Lakes in 2015, with calls at ports in all of the Lakes. Much of this year’s growth in container shipments has been in consumer goods, retail and foodstuffs, he added. There is still a big imbalance in westbound and eastbound container movements, which means the Port has to convince more American exporters to ship products to Europe through Cleveland.