It's never happened before and it comes at a time when it's most-need.  The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is now accepting and processing cargo containers for the first time ever at the Clure Public Marine Terminal.

The move makes the Duluth port only one of two on the Great Lakes that can process cargo container ships, and the furthest west into the United States; the other Great Lakes port that can process cargo containers is in Cleveland, Ohio.

Northland shipping and transportation officials see the move as a positive for the local economy and "untapped potential" for North America. With the current supply chain issues and the back-up of shipping containers at ports around the country - especially the West Coast, the ability to unload and process cargo containers for the Twin Ports is a huge gain.

Shipping docks along the St. Louis River in the Duluth / Superior Harbor
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Some might be surprised that the Twin Ports didn't process cargo containers directly off the ships previously - as they aren't an uncommon sight in the area.  An article in the Superior Telegram explains:

"Until now, the Port Authority and its multimodal service with Lake Superior Warehousing, Duluth Cargo Connect, could only handle cargo containers moving through the terminal on rail and truck, not off ships."

While the announcement comes at a strategic time for the country and the supply-chain issue, the groundwork for the changeover a while ago - perhaps even before the pandemic. Port Authority Executive Director Deb DeLuca shared that the steps to "meet regulatory requirements" started in the middle of 2020.  At the same time, the necessary changes to be able to receive cargo containers started at the facility.

The ship Stewart J. Cort on Lake Superior outside the Superior shipping entry
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

With the regulatory steps out of the way and the necessary remodeling done, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority is ready to start accepting cargo containers.  Officials are excited, but realistic in that the

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Officials with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority are excited for the future.  October marks the first month that the port was able to advertise it's ability to accept and process cargo containers directly off the ship so "it'll take time to present the Clure Terminal as a viable option for movers of container-shipped goods in the Midwest".

Nonetheless, their aim is to be competitive.  DeLuca offers "[w]e're looking into how [we'll] fit into the supply chain.  It's very exciting.  We're efficient, we're uncongested, and we offer first access to the Midwest and North American heartland".

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