The largest, farthest-inland freshwater port.
The Great Lakes Cargo Capital
For over a century, the Port of Duluth-Superior has been the backbone of this region's economy. Long known as the Great Lakes "bulk cargo capital," this port accommodates the maritime transportation needs of a wide range of industries ranging from agriculture, forestry, mining and manufacturing to construction, power generation, and passenger cruising.
Located at the western end of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway (GLSLS), it is the farthest-inland freshwater seaport and one of the leading bulk cargo ports in all of North America. By far, the largest and busiest on the Great Lakes, the Port of Duluth-Superior handles an average of 38 million short tons of cargo and nearly 1,000 vessel visits each year...connecting the heartland of the U.S. and Canada to the rest of the world.
There are 20 privately owned and operated docks along 49 miles of waterfront in this harbor plus one general cargo terminal, a fueling depot, tug/barge services, and a shipyard with two dry docks. Primarily a natural resources port, docks in the "twin ports" of Duluth, Minn. and Superior, Wis., handle a diversified commodities base ranging from coal, iron ore, grain, and limestone to cement, salt, wood pulp, steel coil, wind turbine components, and other heavy lift/dimensional equipment. Over 11,500 jobs are dependent on cargo shipments in and out of this Port, according to an Economic Impact Study released in 2011.
Nationally ranked. Internationally renowned.
Ranked by cargo tonnage among the top 20 ports in the U.S., Duluth-Superior is a full-service, multimodal hub for domestic and international trade. At the crossroads of three major highway systems and four Class I railroads - BNSF, CN, CP and UP - it is ideally situated for moving cargo in and out of the heartland. In fact, by volume, logistics experts rank this Port among the top 10 in North America for transloading wind turbine components.
Having Duluth Seaway Port Authority property designated a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) provides incentives for international shippers. In addition to the Clure Public Marine Terminal and Duluth Airpark, FTZ designation is also available to other operators within the region.
While containers are not routinely handled in large volumes at Duluth-Superior terminals, the Port looks forward to new cargo transport opportunities as markets develop along the GLSLS for slab steel, renewable energy products, containerization, and other short sea shipping options. Contact the Port Authority's trade development director for more information.
For a map and descriptions of all port facilities, click here.
Marine highway moves freight and passengers.
All vessels that visit Duluth-Superior enter the harbor through the naturally sculpted Superior Entry in Wisconsin or through the Duluth Ship Canal beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge. Click here to view a live camera shot of the canal. For vessel arrival and departure times, call the Boatwatchers hotline (218) 722-6489 or check the schedule online at www.duluthboats.com.
Two distinct types of ships visit the Port on a regular basis. "Lakers" are bulk carriers specially built to ply the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway. In Duluth-Superior, lakers constitute over 90 percent of vessel traffic. The largest U.S. lakers are over 1,000 feet (300+m) long, 105 feet (32m) wide and of 56 feet (17m) hull depth, with a carrying capacity of nearly 70,000 short tons. Too large to fit through locks at the Welland Canal which bypasses Niagara Falls, these lakers" spend their working lives hauling bulk commodities like iron ore, coal, and stone between ports on four of the five Great Lakes.
While some U.S. lakers and all Canadian fleets are small enough to transit the St. Lawrence Seaway all the way to Quebec and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, their hulls are built to Great Lakes strength standards and are not certified for ocean passages. These vessels vary greatly in configuration and cargo capacity, but are capable of hauling between 10,000 and 40,000 tons per trip.
Since the modern Seaway opened in 1959, colorful oceangoing vessels affectionately called "salties" have made the 2,342-mile trek from the Atlantic Ocean to Duluth-Superior. At a maximum size of 740 feet (225.5m) in length and beam/width of 78 feet (23.8m), these Seaway-max vessels are small enough to transit all 16 lock sets along the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway. These ships have hulls structurally designed for high-seas transport.
The navigation season within the Seaway is limited to nine months; but to service steel mills, utility companies and other industries in the region, shipping on four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) extends into mid-January. Tugboats and Coast Guard icebreakers keep shipping channels open on the Lower Lakes and the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Promoting maritime commerce
While freight has moved along this marine highway for hundreds of years, Duluth-Superior has once again become a destination and point of embarkation for passengers, with the re-emergence of Great Lakes Cruising.
When it comes to promoting maritime commerce and facilitating industrial development, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority is one of this region's greatest champions. Created in 1955 to expand and improve facilities in the harbor in anticipation of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the agency remains committed to bringing business to the Port and economic development to the region. Today, the Port Authority owns and manages multiple properties including the Clure Public Marine Terminal and Duluth Airpark.