Watch Now

Minnesota port ready to handle waterborne international containers

Duluth offers ‘fluid alternative for containers to move inland and bypass those coastal bottlenecks’

Duluth, Minnesota, is ready for waterborne shipping containers, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Want to avoid the crowded Southern California ports? Have you considered Minnesota?

Duluth Seaway Port Authority officials have announced that the Clure Public Marine Terminal now can handle steamship-owned international shipping containers transported by vessel, “in an expansion that will augment existing road- and rail-based intermodal container service under the Duluth Cargo Connect banner.” 

The Clure Terminal has been welcoming vessel traffic since it opened in 1958, but over the decades those ships primarily have carried project cargoes, forest products and bulk shipments. 

Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, said the Port of Duluth-Superior stands ready as an uncongested choice for shippers looking to move containerized cargo to and from the heartland. 

“Our Clure Terminal is a full-service multimodal logistics hub for the Upper Midwest, so it’s only natural that we offer the advantages of maritime container handling to complement our land-based network,” she said. “We’ve been nurturing this potential for a while and we’re excited to see it coming to fruition. 

“Considering the significant congestion and delays occurring at some coastal ports, we provide a fluid alternative for containers to move inland and bypass those coastal bottlenecks,” DeLuca said.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority has invested a reported $36 million in terminalwide improvements since 2015 that helped pave the way for handling waterborne containers. 

“Duluth is unique as North America’s farthest-inland seaport, close to major markets like Chicago, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Fargo-Moorhead and, of course, the Twin Cities,” DeLuca told American Shipper. “With the launch of this new maritime container capability, Duluth is also the only U.S. Great Lakes seaport west of Cleveland that is capable of handling containers by direct water connection. That combination of geography and capacity creates a great synergy for the port, for shippers looking to reach those Upper Midwest markets and also for manufacturers in those markets looking to export via water.”

Jonathan Lamb, president of Duluth Cargo Connect, said: “We’re excited about expanding our container services to include a direct maritime connection over our docks, which will give our customers even more opportunity and flexibility in their supply chains. Whether the commodity is raw materials for manufacturing, finished goods, foodstuffs or other retail items, and whether connecting via feeder vessel with steamship-owned containers from a coastal port or direct charter vessel with private shipper-owned containers, we are well equipped to provide shippers with a seamless alternative.”

The Clure Terminal has five cargo berths, 430,000 square feet of warehouse capacity, more than 65 acres of outdoor ground storage, a roll-on/roll-off dock and twin rail-mounted gantry cranes.

According to the announcement, the terminal also has foreign trade zone status, the ability to fill and unload containers, heat-treated dunnage certification for export packaging, a truck scale, and reefer plugs. 

“This idea of containers reaching the Midwest directly by water isn’t new. It’s been part of the Clure Terminal vision since the mid-1960s but the time is right to bring that vision into a modern focus and we’re well positioned to do it,” DeLuca said. 

As of Tuesday, the Clure Terminal had not yet welcomed a container ship to Duluth. And those that do call probably won’t be visible for miles and miles like the mega-ships that call the coastal ports. The maximum capacity at the Port of Duluth-Superior is a container ship carrying 400 to 500 forty-foot equivalent units. 

About 800 vessels and 35 million short tons of cargo move through the Port of Duluth-Superior each year. The port, with 49 miles of harbor frontage, has 20 privately owned bulk cargo docks as well as the Clure Terminal. There also is a marine fueling depot, shipyard with dry docks, and tug and barge services. Four Class I railroads serve the port. 

Career Tracks: GreyOrange, Aim Transportation and Duluth Seaway

Two ships that didn’t pass in the day

US ports land more than $280 million in federal grants 

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

One Comment

  1. Chris Cody

    Sounds like a good idea but

    One consideration not mentioned in your article is that to enter the Great Lakes you need a specifically lakes fitted vessel. Vessel maximum: 225.5 m (740 ft.) length; 23.77 m (78 ft.) beam; 8.08 m (26 ft., 6 in.) fresh water draft; 35.5 m (116.5 ft.) height above water. You also have seasonal considerations especially with Winter fast approaching….

    The above restrictions specifically the draft of the vessel to enter the Lakes will restrict the amount of containers that can be loaded and increase the cost of transit per container

    still an idea which should be investigated…

Comments are closed.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.