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    Great Lakes Towing Makes Cleveland History with Intermodal “Short Sea” Barge Move at the Port of Cleveland


    For the first time in Cleveland’s history, last week The Great Lakes Towing Company completed an Intermodal “Short Sea” barge move. This was the first time that a product, in this case a large transformer weighing over 114 metric tons, was transferred from the dock-side, rail line directly to the barge waiting in the water.

    Norfolk & Southern interchanged the rail car, carrying the 114 metric ton transformer, to Cleveland Harbor Belt Railroad to bring the railcar via the Port of Cleveland’s rail loop to the dock-face under the Port’s heavy lift crane. The cargo was transferred to a barge and was towed by the Tug OHIO, to Marysville, Michigan for final delivery. The tug-barge transit time from Cleveland, Ohio to Marysville, Michigan took 20 hours and the transfer of the heavy lift cargo took 1 hour and 21 minutes.

    A similar route using overland freight transportation would have required a complicated state permitting process for both Michigan and Ohio not to mention tip-toeing across the nation due to load restrictions on certain highways and in order to avoid traffic bottlenecks and regular urban congestion.

    This seamless rail-water logistics transfer created by the partnership between, the Port of Cleveland, the Great Lakes Towing Company, Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation, makes shipping more cost and time effective, and provides international and domestic shippers a better and greener intermodal route to the Midwest. One ship can carry the load of 870 trucks (25,000 metric tons) or 225 railcars saving on fuel consumption and reducing emissions.

    With the more direct point-to-point routing of the short-sea shipping operation, the short-sea barge move will become increasingly more popular especially with the Port of Cleveland having launched their own liner service to Europe through an unprecedented charter agreement with Amsterdam-based carrier Spliethoff Group; this European Express is increasing its service frequency from monthly trips to every two weeks come spring time.

    Further economic development is predicted in the region based on this triumvirate: the short-sea barge capabilities, increased shipments from the Cleveland-European Express, and the fact that Cleveland is closer to Europe than other east coast ports. 

    Short sea shipping commonly refers to coast-wise waterborne transportation of freight and or passengers by navigable waterways without crossing an ocean.
     

    S.Phillibert, staff writer