Shipment courier

Port of Duluth celebrates historic expedition – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The first container shipments bound for European markets are due to leave the local port this weekend, when 200 containers loaded with bulk bags of red beans depart aboard the vessel Nunalik.

The beans are destined for 10 locations in four different countries across the Atlantic Ocean, including Germany, Italy, France and Hungary.

“It’s very satisfying to have it all come together,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “This is an opportunity to show how it can work.”

The Nunalik rests on an unloading slip on Friday, May 27, 2022 at the Port of Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The Port Authority announced last fall that it had built the infrastructure and removed regulatory hurdles to both accept imports and deliver exports via containers.

The Port Authority, working with dock operator Lake Superior Warehousing Co. as Duluth Cargo Connect, marketed its service as an alternative to supply chain bottlenecks on U.S. shores.

“This is a saving grace for us,” said Cindy Brown, president of Chippewa Valley Bean Co., of Menomonie, Wisconsin. “This opens up a horizon for us to introduce products in Europe. Sky is the limit.”

First foreign container shipment set to leave Port of Duluth
Cindy Brown, president of Chippewa Valley Bean Co., of Menomonie, Wis., talks about using containers to ship her product from Duluth to customers in Europe Friday, May 27, 2022, at the Port of Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Brown, port officials and industry leaders met with the media Friday at the Clure Public Marine Terminal in Rice’s Point to discuss the first shipment of its kind.

Historically, the Port of Duluth-Superior was used to transport bulk cargo such as taconite iron ore, coal, grain, salt, and limestone. All containers passing through the port had parts to accompany project cargoes such as wind blades and turbines.

But since the start of the pandemic in 2020, congestion has overtaken coastal ports. Supply chains were further disrupted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Brown recounted how one of his company’s containers sat in an eastern port last year from February until it was finally loaded onto a ship in June.

“The supply chain has basically collapsed,” Brown said, before lauding the alternative of using Duluth and the Great Lakes.

“What it did was it gave us more control over our product and helped us do a better job with our customer service,” she added.

First foreign container shipment set to leave Port of Duluth
A stacker lift moves a 20ft shipping container to a staging area Friday, May 27, 2022 at the Port of Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The kidney beans shipped were harvested 80% from farms in Minnesota and 20% in Wisconsin.

“We have such a gem in our backyard in Duluth,” said Wes Sanda, managing partner of Realm5, a Lincoln, Nebraska, company that designs solutions for agricultural expeditions.

The Great Lakes-St. The St. Lawrence Seaway has long been an afterthought for container shipping. Until now, only Cleveland, on the US side of the Great Lakes, had the capacity to handle container shipments. The aversion to the Great Lakes was largely due to the fact that the navigation season closes from mid-January to the end of March to accommodate ice buildup and maintenance of the Soo Locks.

But desperate times have caused industries to rethink shipping practices.

“We welcome this opportunity to show this westernmost part of the Great Lakes that container traffic over water is indeed the way to go,” said Claus Sorensen, vice president of Spleithoff Cleveland. , the owner who ordered the Nunalik.

The Nunalik, flying the Dutch flag, arrived at the Twin Ports with parts of wind turbines. The heavy, shrink-wrapped parts were being unloaded as industry officials celebrated the first container shipment, which was due to be loaded on Friday afternoon.

First foreign container shipment set to leave Port of Duluth
Gantry cranes unload wind turbine cargo from Saltie Nunalik Friday, May 27, 2022 at the Port of Duluth. The Nunalik will then be loaded with containers containing goods from Chippewa Valley Bean Co., of Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

For Jonathan Lamb, president of Lake Superior Warehousing, it’s been a long journey. The company and the Port Authority have been working for years to build the Clure terminal to its current capacities. He noted that he was also working closely with the US Coast Guard and US Customs and Border Protection to make container shipments a reality.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity here,” Lamb said. “The market is looking for alternatives in a world that faces many challenges from a logistics and supply chain perspective.”

First foreign container shipment set to leave Port of Duluth
Jonathan Lamb, President of Lake Superior Warehousing Co., of Duluth, speaks about the importance of freight container service Friday, May 27, 2022, at the Port of Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Lamb added that he does not expect weekly container shipments. The next could arrive in six or eight weeks, he said. He attended more industry conferences than usual in an effort to attract new business.

“There are already signs that this may turn into something a bit more regular, rather than a one-off event,” Lamb said. “If things go well, it will attract more traffic.”

Nunalik leaves on Saturday and is expected to make the trip to Europe in about 14 days.

First foreign container shipment set to leave Port of Duluth
Wes Sanda, Managing Partner, Realm5, talks about using freight containers to ship products from Duluth on Friday, May 27, 2022, at the Port of Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

First foreign container shipment set to leave Port of Duluth
Claus Sorensen, vice president of Spleithoff Cleveland, speaks about the use of cargo container services Friday, May 27, 2022, at the Port of Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

First foreign container shipment set to leave Port of Duluth
Jayson Hron of the Duluth Port Authority speaks to the media Friday, May 27, 2022 at the Port of Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune