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Port of Duluth-Superior opens trans-Atlantic service

The following is an excerpt from Spring 2023 Issue of North Star Port by Port Director, Deb DeLuca

For the first time in practical or archival memory, the Port of Duluth-Superior will offer a regular trans-Atlantic liner service connecting North America’s furthest-inland seaport with Antwerp, Belgium.

Photo courtesy Dynamar B.V. Maritime Reports

More specifically, the Dutch shipping company Spliethoff will provide ships for the dedicated monthly liner service that will carry breakbulk, project and container cargoes, plus special bulk cargo arrangements, between the Duluth Seaway Port Authority’s Clure Public Marine Terminal, featuring Duluth Cargo Connect services, and Antwerp, which is a major gateway to markets in Europe and beyond. The service will offer short transit times of 20–25 days and reduced costs to importers and exporters located in the upper Midwest and well beyond.

The first vessel arrived at the Duluth Cargo Connect facilities on May 13. With this first vessel, we handled import cargos that will be delivered as far as the Pacific Northwest and export cargos coming from as far away as Calgary, Alberta, representing a remarkable catchment area.

The Port Authority’s sequential, strategic investments in the Clure Terminal have resulted in a stage that makes this service a possibility. Duluth Cargo Connect’s deep relationships and reputation for excellence within the shipping industry and with regional businesses, coupled with Spliethoff’s vision and willingness to partner, makes the performance on that stage a reality.

Spliethoff allows for “parceling” the vessel, which means it can be filled with mixed cargoes from multiple shippers with no minimal tonnage requirement. Shippers needn’t commit to filling an entire ship to get their goods to market. In the trucking world, this is similar to less-than-truckload service. It makes shipping by water from the middle of the continent economical for smaller shippers.

Spliethoff has its own pool of containers; their availability should mitigate container supply challenges and its regular sailing schedule means predictability for shippers.

The Duluth Cargo Connect team unloaded an innovative German tractor from the UAL Fortitude this past May. The tractor was one of several import cargoes sailing to Duluth’s Clure Public Marine Terminal on board the first of Spliethoff’s monthly Antwerp-Duluth liner service vessels.


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