Cleveland, Oct. 24, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Port of Cleveland unveiled plans this week to start a regularly scheduled express freight shipping service between the Cleveland Harbor and Europe utilizing the Saint Lawrence Seaway, starting in April.

The Cleveland-Europe Express Ocean Freight Service will be the only scheduled international container service on the Great Lakes. "Currently, local manufacturers use East Coast ports to ship goods to Europe, incurring additional rail and truck costs along the way," said William Friedman, president & CEO of the Port of Cleveland. "The Cleveland Europe-Express will allow local companies to ship out of their own backyards, simplifying logistics and reducing shipping costs."

The service will be 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. The Cleveland-Europe Express is estimated to carry anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 tons of cargo per year. This volume equates to approximately 10-15% of Ohio's trade with Europe.

"This service will be a game changer for manufacturers in the region, keeping shipping dollars local, while opening our shores to the global market in a new way," Friedman said.

Betty Sutton, administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, said that this service will link the Port of Cleveland into the vast network of global trade. "Ninety percent of all global trade by volume is over water. The Cleveland-Europe Express Service represents a breakthrough for Great Lakes shipping, establishing the Port of Cleveland as the only Port with scheduled international container service in the Great Lakes," Sutton said.

Marc Krantz, chairman of the Port of Cleveland Board, explained that the Port pursued this direct route export and import service to Europe as a way to spur job creation and to help the Northeast Ohio region and the Midwest compete globally by connecting businesses to world markets. "We expect there to be a lot of indirect benefit to companies who service the Port as a result of increased cargo coming through Cleveland Harbor," Krantz said.

The Port is in final negotiations with the Dutch company Spliethoff Group to run the service via the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Bart Peters, manager of Spliethoff Group's America Service, explained that Spliethoff Group plays a leading role worldwide in the transport market for various cargoes.  The company owns and operates a fleet of about 100 multi-purpose, heavy-lift, and ro-ro vessels ranging in size from 9,500 to 21,000 tons, all of which sail under the Dutch flag. 

"Spliethoff Group regularly looks for new business opportunities in which to utilize our vessel capacity, and we are excited about the prospect of partnering with the Port of Cleveland on this venture," Peters said. "We believe that providing scheduled, reliable capacity to the America's industrial heartland via the Great Lakes/Saint Lawrence Seaway routing will enable shippers to connect more efficiently to the European continent."

Stephan van de Wall, Acting Consul General & Head of Economic Department, Netherlands Consulate General, Chicago, said that the Netherlands Consulate for the Midwest believes this service will create more business opportunities and contribute to the further economic development of Cleveland, Ohio, and the Midwest. "The growing pressure on U.S. east coast ports and the congestion of rail and road freight corridors and logistic hubs in the Midwest suggest that this kind of service will be successful and will grow in the years to come," van de Wall said.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the Port of Cleveland is indispensable to the economic success of Cleveland and the other communities in Cuyahoga County, with maritime activities through Cleveland Harbor supporting 18,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in economic activity annually. 

"With the addition of the Cleveland-Europe Express Service, the Port of Cleveland will become more than just a crucial economic engine for our city," Jackson said.  "It will become the Midwest's gateway to trade with Europe.  And it will be right here in Cleveland."

Richard Gareau, President, Midwest Transatlantic Lines, Inc., Berea, Ohio, said his company supports he Port of Cleveland's initiative to start the express freight service. "Our company's success is based in part on our central location to rail, ports and international airlines, and having a direct-to-Europe shipping connection right in our backyard will benefit our business," he said.

Steve Warthon, Operations Manager at The Lubrizol Corporation, noted that having a direct shipping option to Europe will increase the company's competitiveness. "This in turn produces the opportunity to invest more dollars into the local economy, reduce our inventory carrying costs by using this faster shipping option, and reduce our carbon footprint."

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About The Port of Cleveland
The Port of Cleveland is a key to Northeast Ohio's global competitiveness by providing the quickest route between North American's Heartland and Northern Europe. An economic engine for Northeast Ohio, the Port brings 13-million tons of cargo through the Cleveland Harbor, and with it $1.8 billion in annual economic activity and nearly 18,000 jobs. As a Green Port on a Great Lake, the Port of Cleveland plays a key role in the environmental restoration and revitalization of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. For more information, visit the Port website at:

Melisa Freilino 
Office 216-377-1339 
Cell 216-392-4528