A transformer is loaded at Antwerp for trans-Atlantic shipment via the Spliethoff Cleveland-Europe Express, the only direct, scheduled vessel service moving breakbulk and project cargo, as well as containers, between Europe and the Great Lakes
A transformer is loaded at Antwerp for trans-Atlantic shipment via the Spliethoff Cleveland-Europe Express, the only direct, scheduled vessel service moving breakbulk and project cargo, as well as containers, between Europe and the Great Lakes

For oversized cargo of such shippers as Caterpillar Inc. and the Rolls-Royce Energy unit of Siemens, as well as for containers, the Spliethoff Cleveland-Europe Express is providing a cost-saving link between the U.S. Midwest and points throughout the world.
Among those impressed with the service is Marcella Baker, export supervisor with Atlanta-based global freight forwarder UTC Overseas Inc.

“UTC Overseas has greatly benefited from our continued relationship with Spliethoff throughout the years,” Baker told the American Journal of Transportation. “As a choice carrier, Spliethoff has been a vital asset in assisting UTC with one of our largest heavy equipment accounts, Caterpillar Global Mining.”

Baker said that when UTC Overseas recently was challenged with shipping a Caterpillar 6090 FS hydraulic mining shovel – one of the world’s largest and most complex pieces of mining equipment, with an operating weight of 1,080 tons – it turned to the Spliethoff service.

“By utilizing Spliethoff’s ability to efficiently accommodate vessel loading in the Great Lakes, transportation costs were greatly reduced,” she said. “This not only provided a true value advantage for both UTC and our customer, it also reiterated the fact that, without a doubt, Spliethoff has one of the most responsive and skilled teams UTC Overseas Inc. has ever worked with.”

Torin Swartout, Ridgefield, Conn.-based vice president of the Amsterdam-headquartered Spliethoff Group, said other high-and-heavy shippers, such as Rolls-Royce, also are relying upon the service for significant savings in on-carriage costs for moving out-of-gauge project cargo in and out of the Great Lakes region, thus facilitating expansion of the offering since it began in 2014.

“When we started the Spliethoff Cleveland-Europe Express, it was a pure piston service, with one vessel going back and forth between Cleveland and Antwerp,” Swartout said. “We listened to our customers and added vessels in order to call other ports, especially for heavy, high and wide cargo whose origin or destination makes it difficult or impossible to move over our original port pair. We have changed this to a more flexible pattern using more vessels and not in a pure piston arrangement. This allows us more flexibility to service the market throughout the entire Great Lakes.”

Spliethoff now averages three sailings per month in the service, which also makes it progressively appealing to shippers of containers, he said.

At the Port of Cleveland, the service benefits from use of two new shore cranes for loading and discharge of containers, and a new warehouse is being built to handle increasing truckload deliveries throughout the Midwest.

When the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed to vessel traffic in winter months, Spliethoff shifts its calls to Baltimore.

Swartout said the growing popularity of the service stems from its allowing many shippers a shorter truck haul between Midwest points and port berth than traditional Gulf or East Coast seaport routings, as well as the ability of Spliethoff to offer through bills of lading not just to and from Antwerp but also all over the globe via scheduled services.

“Shippers tell us that it is important to them to be able to know with certainty that we will have scheduled voyages with suitable modern vessels to carry their projects and heavylifts, as well as their containers and ro/ro [roll-on/roll-ff cargo],” Swartout said.