Handling overweight/over-dimensional (OW/OD) cargo and packaged freight continues to be big business for the Port of Duluth and crews at Duluth Cargo Connect.

Not only does Duluth anchor the western edge of the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System, the port is unique in the world of transportation by having four Class I rail carriers that serve the general cargo facility — BNSF, CN, CP and UP. That kind of connectivity fosters competitive pricing and staging for landside legs of cargo movement.

Attention to detail is a hallmark of heavy-lift moves through the Port of Duluth. The Duluth Cargo Connect team collaborates daily with freight forwarders, shipping lines, trucking companies and logistics specialists worldwide.

In December, a semi pulling a 147.5mt industrial boiler finished the final landside leg of its journey from Nebraska to the Port of Duluth, where it was loaded onto the Erik and transported to Sarnia, Ontario (Canada). The entire unit — two tractors, two flatbed trailers and the boiler — weighed 442 tonnes and stretched 350 feet in length, which made for slow manoeuvres with dozens of agencies assisting the convoy as it made its way along rural roads, heavy haul corridors and down Duluth’s hillside to the waterfront.

“Multiple companies were involved in the transport of that single unit,” said Kate Ferguson, business development director for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, partner in Duluth Cargo Connect. In addition to complimenting the work ethic of Duluth Cargo Connect crews, she was quick to credit colleagues at Spliethoff, Precision Logistics and Barnhart for streamlining logistics of that particular move.

Additional names surface regularly in their Duluth offices when discussing heavy- lift project cargo transport — names like BBC, Wagenborg and Hansa Heavy Lift; logistics companies/forwarders Damco, DSV, Martin Bencher and CH Robinson; plus specialized heavy haul companies like Kivi Bros. Trucking, Perkins and Vic’s Crane & Heavy Haul; plus the Minnesota Department of Transportation and State Highway Patrol.

“It takes teamwork to co-ordinate the logistics of dimensional freight delivery and to determine the safest, most expedient routes,” says Jonathan Lamb, head of terminal operations for Duluth Cargo Connect. “This move was but one example of the collaborative approach we follow in arranging transits of heavy-lift project cargo across North America and around the globe.”

While the Port of Duluth has seen a decline recently in heavy-lift components destined for the Canadian oil sands, there has been an increase in the movement of transformers, wind turbine components and other power generation equipment. Three shipments that arrived in the Port of Duluth in 2017 included nacelles, hubs, drivetrains, blades and towers for 16 wind turbines destined for installation in ALLETE Clean Energy projects across the upper Midwest. Components arrived aboard the Marsgracht in April 27, the Muntgracht in May and the BBC Mississippi in late November.


“As components keep getting bigger and bigger — dimensionally and weight wise — we’ve upgraded our facilities and equipment to ensure safe, seamless handling of heavy-lift cargoes moving in and out of the heartland,” added Jonathan Lamb of Duluth Cargo Connect.

Construction on the $18 million Clure Terminal Expansion project was completed just over a year ago, which tripled outdoor storage capacity and doubled heavy-lift cargo handling capabilities. Included in the redevelopment project was construction of a new Ro-Ro dock, a rail spur and reinforced heavy-lift dock, plus installation of security fencing around a resurfaced 26- acre deck. Today, Duluth Cargo Connect offers five general cargo berths at Seaway depth, plus on-dock rail for direct transload operations, a loop track for rail access to storage areas, 24-hour security, perimeter fencing, shore-side power, a truck scale, twin 80-tonne rail-mounted gantry cranes with a 120-tonne tandem lift capacity, a 300-tonne crawler crane plus other mobile units employed to handle payloads that exceed those capacities.

Last spring, the Port Authority also completed a $3 million debottlenecking project on the main Clure Public Marine Terminal to improve traffic flow for landside cargo movements. Those infrastructure investments laid the groundwork for the 2017 opening of a brand new CN Duluth Intermodal Terminal onsite, which connects the region to containerized imports and exports via a high-capacity rail network that spans the continent, providing direct service to and from East,West and Gulf Coast ports.

The Port of Duluth continues to serve as a multimodal hub for domestic and international trade as it has since the Seaway opened almost 60 years ago. With a Foreign Trade Zone, over 400,000ft2 of indoor warehouse space, and 40-plus acres of secure outdoor storage space, many Duluth Cargo Connect customers take advantage of its warehousing and distribution facilities to streamline their supply chains.

The experienced stevedores at Duluth Cargo Connect safely and efficiently load and discharge breakbulk, dimensional and heavy-lift cargoes. The Railway Industrial Clearance Association has twice voted the Port of Duluth number one in customer service. In addition, Duluth Cargo Connect offers a wide array of ancillary services including: custom crating/skidding, container stuffing and de-stuffing, fixture change-out and component separation, plus ship servicing and fuelling.