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Mission Possible: Short-sea shipping could increase jobs in Cleveland

The items you buy may some take a trip through the Great Lakes to get to you.

CLEVELAND — You may have already heard the warnings to start your holiday shopping early this year. 

The effects of the pandemic, supply chain issues and now congestion at coastal ports could leave that “must have” holiday gadget or toy stranded miles away from area store shelves. 

Now ports are rethinking how cargo should be transported.

The ship “Huron Spirit” is docked to offload Canadian-made steel in Cleveland. This is an example of short-sea shipping, the movement of cargo between ports, without traveling on the oceans. It is a concept that isn't new.

“Particularly on our instance here on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway system it is becoming much more popular and prevalent for a lot of cargo owners not only around here but the Midwest in general,” said David Gutheil, the Chief Commercial Officer for the Port of Cleveland.

Coastal port congestion is sparking interest in short-sea shipping on the Great Lakes, here and in Canada. The Great Lakes Commission, an international agency that sets policies for the lakes, encouraged the practice this summer.

“We are basically trying to develop a solution that already exists and increase the knowledge in the supply chain industry that they have an option like this to use,” remarked Gutheil.

Gutheil says increasing shipping between Great Lake ports will speed up transportation time, as goods are off-loaded closer to their final destination.

“Unfortunately, it has taken a pandemic and some congestion that is going on in some coastal ports because of global supply chain issues to make people realize that this is a viable solution,” said Gutheil

Another change the Port of Cleveland made was to create a container business in 2014. This allows a greater influx of finished goods, to arrive in Cleveland. That’s where the port can see immediate growth using short-sea shipping.

“We have the capacity to handle more than 50 thousand containers annually. Here at the space, we are operating right now at the port,” stated Gutheil.

Gutheil can see “overseas ships” stopping first in Canada, then smaller ships coming to Cleveland. He believes an increase in waterway traffic has potential environmental benefits.

“More maritime shipping means less pollution because it means less truck and less rail movements,” said Gutheil. “The movement of cargo on the water is seven times more fuel efficient than movement by trucks. It reduces fuel emissions, and it is greener in general.”

Over 20,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in economic activity annually are tied to the Port of Cleveland. Short-sea shipping could push those numbers even higher.

“We want to help folks around here not only move their cargo more efficiently but gain higher paying jobs through the movement of cargo and if we can assist in that process, we’re happy to do so,” stated Gutheil.


EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above previously aired on 3News on Aug. 28, 2022.

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