Port of Cleveland unveiled plans to start a regularly scheduled express freight shipping service between Cleveland and Europe, starting in April 2014. The Cleveland-Europe Express Ocean Freight Service will be the only scheduled international container service on the Great Lakes. “Currently, local manufacturers use east coast ports to ship goods to Europe, incurring additional rail and truck costs along the way,” said Will Friedman, President and CEO of Port of Cleveland. “The Cleveland Europe-Express will allow local companies to ship out of their own backyards, simplifying logistics and reducing shipping costs.”

The service will be the fastest and greenest route between Europe and North America’s heartland, allowing regional companies to ship their goods up to four days faster than using water, rail and truck routes via U.S. east coast ports. The Cleveland-Europe Express is estimated to carry anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 tonnes of cargo per year. This volume equates to approximately 10-15 per cent of Ohio’s trade with Europe.

“This service will be a game changer for manufacturers in the region, keeping shipping dollars local, while opening our shores to the global market in a new way,” Friedman said. Marc Krantz, Port of Cleveland’s Chairman, said the organization pursued the express service to meets the Port’s strategic initiatives by growing the Port’s maritime business, increasing the Port’s financial stability, and increasing regional trade opportunities on behalf of Northeast Ohio companies. “Port of Cleveland spurs job creation and helps our region compete globally by connecting local businesses to world markets through the most cost-effective, method of freight transportation in the region,” Krantz said. “We expect there to be a lot of indirect benefit to companies who service the Port as a result of increased cargo coming through Cleveland Harbor.”

The Port is in final negotiations with Dutch company Spliethoff Group to run the service via the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The Port will not have to invest any capital to start the service and has designed the service to be revenue generating, which it will reinvest in maintaining job producing infrastructure, cleaning up ship channel infrastructure, and opening up the waterfronts to public access. Bart Peters, Manager of Spliethoff Group’s America Service, explained that the Spliethoff Group plays a leading role worldwide in the transport market for various cargoes, such as heavylift, general cargo, forest products, project based machinery and yachts. The company owns and operates a fleet of about 100 multipurpose, heavy-lift, and ro-ro vessels ranging in size from 9,500 to 21,000 tonnes, all of which fly under the Dutch flag. “Spliethoff Group regularly looks for new business opportunities in which to utilize our vessel capacity, and we are excited about the prospect of partnering with Port of Cleveland on this venture,” Peters said. “We believe that providing scheduled, reliable capacity to the America’s industrial heartland via the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway routing will enable shippers to connect more efficiently to the European continent.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the port is indispensable to the economic success of Cleveland and the other communities in Cuyahoga County, with maritime activities through Cleveland Harbor supporting 18,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in economic activity annually. “With the addition of the Cleveland-Europe Express Service, the port of Cleveland will become more than just a crucial an economic engine for our city,” Jackson said. “It will become the Midwest’s gateway to trade with Europe. And it will be right here in Cleveland.”

Mark Chesnes, President, InterChez Corp., explained that the cost of moving oversized, break bulk cargo to East Coast ports by truck or rail to ship is incredibly expensive. But, having service out of the port of Cleveland will greatly reduce those costs. “The companies that make manufacturing equipment in the region can suddenly become more competitive because they won’t have to incur the large costs to get their equipment to port,” Chesnes said.