DULUTH, Minn. – The final inbound wind energy cargo vessel of 2020, the BBC Swift, discharged wind turbine blades at Duluth’s Clure Public Marine Terminal last week, capping a record-setting season at North America’s furthest inland seaport.
In total, the Port of Duluth welcomed 525,000 freight tons of wind energy cargo in 2020, a single-season record. This eclipsed the previous high of 306,000 freight tons set in 2019.
Duluth Cargo Connect managed the unloading, storage and dispatch of the cargo to sites throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The components arrived in Duluth aboard 30 ships sailing from eight countries: Brazil, Germany, India, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, Spain and Turkey. These shipments included the longest blades (242 feet) and towers (100 feet) ever handled at the Great Lakes’ heaviest lift port. Collectively, the components will assemble 154 wind turbines.
“It’s been a difficult year under the cloud of a global pandemic, but this freight tonnage record is a much-appreciated highlight, made even better by the fact that Duluth Cargo Connect set records in consecutive seasons,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Looking beyond the numbers, this port’s emergence as a wind cargo hub is an important win for cargo diversity and also for the expansion of renewable energy nationwide.”
Duluth became a destination for wind energy cargo in 2006. Two years later, the port welcomed a then-record 302,000 freight tons of turbine components. Building on that haul, the Port Authority subsequently initiated a series of strategic investments in the Clure Terminal to support additional wind cargo opportunities. That included an $18 million rehabilitation and modernization of a dilapidated dock, a project that added 26 acres of modern outdoor storage space with road and on-dock rail access, as well as two new Seaway-depth berths and a roll-on/roll-off dock. In 2017, the Port Authority added a 300-ton lift mobile crane to complement the terminal’s existing Duluth-built 90-ton twin gantry cranes and fleet of heavy-lift vehicles. The addition of this storage space and expanded lift capacity was an important factor in handling this season’s record cargo total, a factor complemented by Duluth Cargo Connect employees, who persevered through a pandemic-compressed delivery schedule.
“I’m extremely proud of our team and grateful to our customers,” said Jonathan Lamb, president of Duluth Cargo Connect. “There were some long hours throughout the second half of the Great Lakes shipping season, but we stayed flexible and overcame the challenges. Ultimately, it produced a record-setting season, and that’s truly a testament to the fantastic team we have at Duluth Cargo Connect.”
Approximately 800 vessels and 35 million short tons of cargo move through the Port of Duluth-Superior each year, making it the Great Lakes’ largest tonnage port and one of the nation’s top 20. The Port supports 8,000 jobs and contributes $1.4 billion in business revenue to the regional economy. Learn more at DuluthPort.com.