CLEVELAND -- It's a big change that could bring new business to the Port of Cleveland and save manufacturers time and money.
Container cargo service from the Port direct to Europe could start this spring.
Right now the Port handles cargo like bulk commodities and steel that are not shipped in special containers.
Northeast Ohio companies that ship their products in cargo containers must ship goods by truck to an East Coast port and load the cargo there on ships bound for Europe.
Wednesday theportof Clevelandwill announce a deal with global Dutch shipping firm, Spliethoff, to provide direct container service from Cleveland through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Europe. Ships would likely depart biweekly or monthly, depending on demand.
The company would provide containers and ships with no capital investment from the Port.
Port C-E-O Will Frieman believes the move could recapture ten percent of Ohio manufacturers' cargo to Europe, pitching the service as faster, cheaper and greener.
"We're trying to get a reasonable piece of the market, especially companies closer to Cleveland...If we could get ten percent of Ohio's trade with Europe, that's enough to fill a ship or two and that's our goal," he said.
Tom Gierszal works for Columbus Shipping and Trading, a firm that links companies and shipping lines.
"It's economical to shippers. It benefits them if there is less handling of cargo, less chance for damage, less chance of getting lost in the logistics or railroads. Delays can be avoided by direct shipping from Cleveland to Europe, so it can work." he predicts.
But in the next breath Gierszal recalls, Cleveland had direct service to Europe decades ago. Bigger ships and ports stole that business away.
"The big players in the Great Lakes have looked at it and they're not sure it can happen profitless, so for another vendor to come in and think they can create a better wheel, we'll see," he said.
The announcement comes weeks before a vote on renewing the Port's levy.
But Port C-E-O Will Friedman believes the initiative should and could continue regardless of the levy outcome.
Longshoremen are hopeful the move could provide more work.
Veteran cargo worker Kendall Irving said, "If it gets more work , beautiful man, work is what we need."
His colleague Julius Alson added,"People need to work and if goes like you say...it'll be good for Northeast Ohio."
Wednesday's announcement will bring former Congresswoman Betty Sutton back to the area.
She's taking part as Administrator of Development for the St. Lawrence Seaway governing group.