Freight coming through the Port of Cleveland was up 10 percent from the previous year as of September 2019, and the number of passenger cruise ships stopping here jumped from 22 to 28. Both numbers are reasons why the port has made recent upgrades and is planning more work, said Jade Davis, the port’s Vice President of External Affairs.
“As of September, we’d moved 330,000 tons of cargo this year through our international terminal,’’ said Davis, and that’s before some of the port’s busiest months. “Usually our busiest months are the last two and first two months of the year. A lot of shippers are trying to get cargo delivered before the seaway closes for the season.’’
Roughly 13 million tons of cargo moves through Cleveland’s port annually, supporting 20,000 jobs and creating $3.5 billion in economic activity.
“This year we’ve had a lot of new shipments in the barge market, and we’re seeing significant numbers of project cargo barges from Canada and coastal origins, such as South Carolina,’’ said Davis. The barges are efficient ways to move larger cargo loads, such as steel pipe and generators for natural gas line production.
Davis said the goods coming in are primarily for Ohio companies, mainly those in the Northeast part of the state.
At the 45-acre Cleveland Bulk Terminal on Whiskey Island west of the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, “We’ve just completed a major seawall repair, replacing a 60-plus-year-old bulkhead,’’ said Davis.
The terminal receives iron ore and limestone coming from the upper Great Lakes.
The $9.7 million project included fenders and mooring bollards and anchor points for mooring lines to secure ships; safety, lighting and access improvements along the bulkheads; and stormwater management upgrades.
Before the work, the Cleveland Bulk Terminal could only handle one ship at a time. Now, two ships can dock at once. “That’s a significant increase in capacity. You can bring it in quicker and clear it off quicker,’’ said Davis.
Jade said the number of cruise ships passengers coming through the port has jumped from 22 in 2018 to 28 in 2019. That’s expected to increase in 2020, with 41 ships now scheduled to come through Cleveland.
“Cruising the Great Lakes has become way more popular and Cleveland is one of the most popular destinations,’’ Davis said. “A lot of people have never been to most of the Great Lakes, never really got a chance to spend time in them. People want to explore the interior of the country. And of the Great Lakes ports, Cleveland is second only to Mackinaw Island in popularity.’’
Because of the increase in passengers who have to go through customs, the port recently completed a $600,000 upgrade of what was formerly the Seamen’s Service building, with air conditioning, heat and restrooms. The port will also do upgrades around the newly finished cruise ship terminal, including installation of energy absorbing dock wall fenders designed specifically to accept cruise vessels.
Throughout 2020, the Port of Cleveland will start upgrades to its main gate. This project will increase cargo throughput capacity and lay a fiber utility backbone for technology improvements, while improving security and efficiency of cargo movements.