Containership’s Arrival Marks Start of New Great Lakes-European Trade Route

MV Fortunagracht unloads the last containers at the port of Cleveland, Saturday, April 19, 2014. Photo courtesy Port of Cleveland via Twitter/Dan Morgan
MV Fortunagracht unloads the last containers at the port of Cleveland, Saturday, April 19, 2014. Photo courtesy Port of Cleveland via Twitter/Dan Morgan

With the arrival of a 450-foot containership in the port of Cleveland Friday night, a new trade route linking the Great Lakes region with northern Europe was born.

Over the weekend, the MV Fortunagracht, a 12,178 DWT Dutch-flagged container ship, delivered the first-ever load of containerized cargo to the Great Lakes in Cleveland from the port Antwerp. Coast Guard marine inspectors were onboard Saturday morning to conduct safety and security examinations ensuring that the vessel complied with international and domestic regulations.

The ship is the first vessel of its kind to enter the Great Lakes as part of the newly-formed trade route, known as the Cleveland-Europe Express.

Before the establishment of the Cleveland-Europe Express, shippers relied heavily on rail service to transport goods from the larger east coast container ports, such as New York and Baltimore, to the Great Lakes region. The new route is expected to shave 4 to 5 days off total transit times.

The MV Fortunagracht departed Antwerp earlier this month for the 12-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Port of Cleveland.

Talks to bring CEE to Cleveland began in the fall of 2013 with cooperation between the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and other government agencies.

In December 2013, the Dutch shipping company Spliethoff and The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority struck a final deal to start the first combined container and general cargo shipping route between Cleveland and Northern Europe.

The new route will serve ports such as Antwerp, Russia, Finland, Baltic States, Poland, UK and Spain. Spliethoff will operate the year round service with cargo varying from containers, to project cargoes, yachts, windmill equipment, heavy lifts, break-bulk cargo, various steel cargoes and dry bulk.