Duluth Port an option for bulk shipping soybeans to EU

Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council has a keen interest in re-energizing shipping of soybeans and soybean meal via the Duluth/Superior twin ports, especially as rail transportation capacity issues have arisen for soybean growers.

Minnesota Soybean farmers and staff, along with Midwest Shippers Association (MSA) staff, have been looking into bulk loading capabilities and handling considerations at ship loading elevators for independent exporters at Duluth. For next spring, bulk ship loading capability is looking promising and break bulk loading of products in bags and totes by crane is available now.

More recently, MSR&PC Director and MSA Director Keith Schrader, along with MSA Executive Director Bruce Abbe, attended a special reception Sept. 10 in Duluth when a Belgium shipping company’s vessel, the Merwedegracht, arrived at Duluth’s Lake Superior Warehouse. The company, Spliethoff, is one of two or three EU shipping companies that operate smaller handy-size break bulk ships that have an interest in expanding ocean service from the Great Lakes. The vessel brought in wind turbines for the wind energy industry and was an opportunity to bulk ship soybeans back to the EU.

Expected to be the last EU vessel to come to Duluth this year, another Spliethoff ship, Muntgracht, is anticipated to arrive around Nov. 10 at the Port of Duluth.

The 8,000 to 12,000 ton vessels are versatile and provide flexibility for agriculture shippers to ship bulk grain and soy products, or IP ag products in bags and one-ton super sacks. Other advantages include several shippers being able to ship segregated freight on the same vessel and shippers do not need to fill an entire ship or hold.

The two organizations hope that Port of Duluth can become a regular destination for the vessels, but for now the back haul opportunity still remains for ships coming in that don’t have other cargo lined up elsewhere in the Great Lakes. Spliethoff has currently established a monthly liner service between the Port of Cleveland and Antwerp, of which MSA is also supportive.

Photo courtesy of Midwest Shippers Association.