Thunder Bay Port Authority is hoping shippers will take advantage of a new service being offered on the Great Lakes in the upcoming season. Spliethoff Group is introducing regular, direct service between the Great Lakes and Antwerp in 2015. The monthly sailing will augment Spliethoff’s similar service between Cleveland and Europe which was introduced in 2014. The charter is available for shipments originating in or destined to Canadian and U.S. ports on the Great Lakes. Shipments will transit on one of Spliethoff’s geared vessels.


The service is flexible in that it accommodates a wide range of cargo options. Examples of cargoes transported by the service include shipper-owned containers, pallet-wide line-supplied containers, rolling machinery and rolling heavy equipment, as well as project cargo, breakbulk, bulk and steel cargoes.

Tim Heney, CEO of Thunder Bay Port Authority says the service’s flexibility may attract shippers that haven’t shipped through the Great Lakes – Seaway route in the past. “One of the benefits of the service is the versatility it offers shippers,” says Heney, “we receive numerous inquiries from freight forwarders who want to take advantage of the benefits of shipping through Thunder Bay, but oftentimes lining up the cargo with a vessel has been a challenge.”

Thunder Bay’s strategic location at the head of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway System makes it an ideal shipping point for cargo moving between Western Canada and Europe. For specialized cargoes such as windmill equipment and oversized machinery, shipping as far as possible by marine mode is imperative due to the dimensional limitations of both road and rail transport. By shipping through Canada’s furthest inland port, shippers can minimize the cost of land transportation which can include charges for special handling or required highway escorts.

Another benefit of Spliethoff’s service is that it can consolidate partial loads from multiple shippers into a single shipload. This makes the marine mode of shipping more accessible to shippers looking to benefit from the cost advantages of marine transportation but who do not have enough cargo to justify chartering an entire vessel. Says Heney, “For the first time, regional shippers will have the opportunity to send partial shiploads of cargo from Thunder Bay overseas without having to charter an entire vessel.”

The charter links to the port of Antwerp, Belgium, but shippers are not limited to this single destination. Antwerp is part of Spliethoff’s “European logistics network,” which offers seamless connection to destinations across the continent including Spain, the U.K., Russia, and the Baltic States.

Spliethoff Group is an Amsterdam-based shipping company dedicated to the transportation of forest products, projects, heavy lifts, yachts and other general cargoes. The 94-year-old company operates more than 100 vessels, all of which fulfill the requirements for the Swedish-Finnish Ice Class 1A or 1A Super.

The port of Thunder Bay is home to a wide range of modern facilities accommodating inbound and outbound shipments of dry bulk, liquid bulk, break bulk and other general cargoes. Project cargo is handled at Keefer Terminal, a world-class general cargo facility offering a mobile harbour crane, acres of indoor and outdoor laydown and storage, intermodal yard with 200-car capacity marshalling yard, and on-dock rail access to both national railways.

The port is augmented by a talented service industry offering value-added services such as fabrication and assembly. Two stevedoring companies, Empire Stevedoring and Logistec Stevedoring, offer expert service and efficient cargo handling.

Shippers could begin utilizing Spliethoff’s new service as early as this spring. The Seaway and the port of Thunder Bay are slated for a late-March opening.