CN and Duluth Cargo Connect announced a new alliance Monday that establishes the first rail-served intermodal container ramp in the Twin Ports.
Loaded containers from ports originating on all three coasts served by Canadian National Railroad will arrive at Clure Public Marine Terminal in Duluth via CN’s network. The containers then can be used by Twin Ports exporters as storage vessels in which they ship their goods to world markets.
CN serves the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver on the West Coast, Montreal and Halifax on the East Coast and New Orleans and Mobile on the Gulf Coast. Duluth Cargo Connect, a partnership of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and Lake Superior Warehousing, operates the rail facility at Clure Public Marine Terminal.
“We’ve got the right partner. CN’s main line passes right by us,” said Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
The process is relatively simple. A “reach stacker,” which is a massive vehicle with a large hydraulic boom, picks up containers and moves them from rail to truck or vise versa.
Port officials have studied the concept for years as other large multimodal hubs have become more congested with traffic. Persistence paid off, Coda said, explaining that having a Twin Ports multi-modal terminal gained traction with CN in recent months. Already, the Montreal-based carrier is promoting the port.
Lexington Manufacturing of Brainerd is among the first customers. The maker of door components is receiving sheets of silicone-infused agrifiber boards by rail in Duluth. They are unloaded, warehoused and reloaded into truck-size containers destined for Brainerd, where Lexington cuts them into sizes needed for door cores. Previously, the firm did the transfer in the Twin Cities.
“Duluth offers some price advantage, especially for warehousing and container handling,” said Brad Milbreck, Lexington’s materials manager.
Truck traffic through Duluth has grown exponentially in recent years, Coda said. Working with CN will bring a whole new mode of efficient transportation services to the Twin Ports, he said.
“CN’s innovative partnership with Duluth Cargo Connect opens up a new logistics supply chain and growth opportunities for the port’s partners and shippers in the region. CN is pleased to bring its extensive contacts in international markets, freight-forwarding knowledge, and customs and marketing support to the Twin Ports,” J.J. Ruest, CN executive vice-president and chief marketing officer, said in a prepared statement.
“By working with CN to establish this Duluth intermodal ramp, Duluth Cargo Connect is helping customers move freight by its shortest and most economical path,” added Jonathan Lamb, president of Lake Superior Warehousing.
Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan, a member of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, said the new ramp is an important addition to the Duluth economy.
“I’m pleased CN has partnered with Duluth Cargo Connect to make the Port of Duluth its newest Midwest destination,” said Nolan, who also is a member of the House Ports Caucus. “This partnership and efficient transportation networks mean more imports and exports coming through Duluth, and most importantly, economic stability and good-paying jobs for our region.”