With the departure of the vessel Fortunagracht out of Antwerp, Belgium over the weekend, the Cleveland-Europe Express service between the Cleveland Harbor and Europe via the Saint Lawrence Seaway has officially launched. The vessel is loaded with breakbulk and containerized cargo and is set to dock in Cleveland around April 17.
The Cleveland-Europe Express is the only regular, scheduled international container and noncontainerized cargo service on the Great Lakes. The Port of Cleveland and Dutch company The Spliethoff Group entered into an agreement in November 2013 to begin the service. It is 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 the U.S. East Coast ports. Will Friedman, president & CEO of the Port of Cleveland, said the market is responding very favorably and in line with expectations.
“This is a significant first step in establishing the first scheduled ocean cargo service in decades between Europe and the Great Lakes via the Saint Lawrence Seaway,” Friedman said. “We look forward to seeing the service grow. We know there’s a market for it.”
Bart Peters, manager of The Spliethoff Group’s America Service, said the company has received strong response to the regularly scheduled, direct line of trade between Europe and the industrial heartland of the U.S.A. The Spliethoff Group owns and operates a fleet of about 100 multi-purpose, heavy-lift, and roro vessels ranging in size from 9,500 to 21,000 tons, all of which sail under the Dutch flag.
“The Cleveland-Europe Express offers fast transit service and carries a variety of cargo between Europe and Cleveland. We are very excited to see Fortunagracht embark on its first trip from Europe to Cleveland,” Peters said. “We are already booking cargo for the next voyage to Cleveland.”
The vessel will arrive in Cleveland carrying European exports, such as wind energy parts, machinery and smaller cargo in containers. The ship will depart for Antwerp on April 18th with machinery and containerized cargo. The Cleveland-Europe Express will continue to make one round trip a month, leaving with cargo from Europe at the beginning of each month and arriving in Cleveland mid-month to unload that cargo, and then collecting exports to carry back to Europe. As demand rises, the Port will be able to add a second ship, allowing for a vessel in port every two weeks.
The express ocean freight service comes at a time when cargo moving through the Port is on the increase. In 2013, the Port had its highest annual tonnage level since the 2008 calendar year. This April’s tonnage is anticipated to be the highest since 2003.