Europe has benefited from short sea shipping, but the idea has never caught on at North America’s Great Lake networks.

Up until now, short sea shipping, whereby cargo is transported within a continent as opposed to across oceans, has not been possible in North America’s Great Lakes because of a system of locks and cold winters that close the St Lawrence Seaway from late December to mid-March.

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The St Lawrence Seaway connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. But now the Port of Toledo on Lake Erie is poised to receive containers by short sea shipping. It recently spent some $15m to upgrade rail access and buy new cranes and equipment that could handle container movements.

The improvements dovetailed with CSX railroad’s newly opened Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal. “We strongly believe that once the CSX terminal is up and fully operational, it could create opportunities for us to move containers by short sea,” said Paul Toth, president and CEO of the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority.

No container shipments have occurred on Lake Erie yet, but Toledo has received ships from Spain hauling wind turbines.