How busy is the Cleveland port on Lake Erie?

by | Feb 6, 2020 | Public Spaces, Parks & Recreation

Will Friedman, CEO/President of CLE Port

Will Friedman, the CEO/President of Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority (and an EA transplant to Cleveland himself) shared some interesting facts with the EA staff about the work of the Cleveland port and how it contributes to the local economy.
While small compared to coastal ports, Cleveland’s Port is the second busiest Great Lakes Port behind Duluth, Minnesota despite having just 17 staffers. It moves 15 million tons of cargo and coordinates 900 ships each year through its busy harbor (with each ship employing about 20 people). The port is quiet from December through mid-March…often because the lake is frozen during this time. But it will be an active port again before we know it!
There are 2,300 miles in the St. Lawrence Seaway – which connects Duluth to the Atlantic Ocean – and Cleveland is on that path; there are 17 locks total along the way. Cleveland is the only port on the Great Lakes that provides container service directly to Europe, which is a competitive advantage.
The Cleveland Port can accommate the largest ships that can fit through the St. Lawrence Seaway, which are about 800 feet long (longer than the Terminal Tower is high). These are huge ocean-going ships, but not the largest on the open seas by a long shot. The size of international ships (called Salties) coming into the Great Lakes is limited by the dimensions of the lock chambers on the Seaway. Cruise ships have already saturated many of the European and Caribbean ports, so the smaller boats are eager to find ports of call like the ones that string the Great Lakes.
Ships that don’t leave the Great Lakes (called Lakers) can be made larger because they don’t have to go through the Seaway Locks. They are up to 1,000 feet long, and we can see them here in Cleveland routinely, mostly delivering iron ore for steel making. Those huge piles along the banks of the Cuyahoga River are generally composed of salt, iron ore, asphalt, and limestone. We ship lots of steel coils; heavy machinery and equipment; wind-energy components; and other oversized project cargo.
All the land in downtown Cleveland that is north of Rt. 2 is built on landfill dredged from the Cleveland Harbor, which is currently being dumped near Burke Lakefront Airport. The older the material is, the more likely it is to contain PCBs – industrial chemicals used in manufacturing that we now know cause cancer if ingested. Using them as fill material for construction is safe, but dumping dredge material in the open lake is no-go. Although media outlets use the word “sludge” to describe what is dredged up, it is sand that gets washed up the river by the current.
Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve (formerly known as Dike 14) was created from dredges from Cuyahoga River and is managed by The Port (not the MetroParks). It is intentionally not a full-service park (no picnics, dogs, or bicycles allowed) and is instead a quiet, protected birding sanctuary for hikers on foot.
Here are a few more things we learned during our EA University:

  • The sloping bulkhead at Irishtown Bend is unstable and engineering has begun to shore it up so that it doesn’t slide into the river, making it unnavigable. The Port has been an active partner in the process to turn this acreage into public access green space with a guesstimate of completion in 5 years.
  • Acting as a financial arm for development projects, the CLE Port has issued more than $4 billion in bonds, beginning with the Rock Hall and including the new Hilton and Westin Hotels downtown; the east bank of the Flats; American Greetings headquarters at Crocker Park; the Church & State development in Hingetown; and many more projects.
  • It takes great skill by the shipmaster and 3-4 hours one way to navigate the S-curves of the Cuyahoga River.
  • 20,000 jobs are dependent on the Port.  It has a $3.5 billion economic impact on the city of Cleveland (wages, taxes, development).
  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District offers students Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School to pursue careers in these industries.
  • Flotsam & Jetsam are the Port’s two trash collecting boats that patrol the Cuyahoga River, picking up debris and keeping passage clear for marine traffic.

Job candidates and relocating employees need rich information about Northeast Ohio as they consider a relocation. Every month, Executive Arrangements takes all our Guides off site to learn about some aspect of our region so they have the most current data to share with recruits and their families. If this sounds like it could help your talent attraction efforts, call us at 216.231.9311.