CEO Stakeholder Letters

November 2, 2012

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Dear Stakeholders: 

I hope you emerged unscathed from the tumult of Hurricane Sandy and that the power is on in your homes, schools and workplaces.  Seeing the images of the storm’s aftermath is heartrending and another reminder of the fragility of the built environment along our coasts.  I’ve been asked many times this week how the port and shipping on the Great Lakes have been impacted so I thought I’d report out a few stories.   

As you might imagine, it was a wild scene down on our docks Monday night and into Tuesday.  The Port’s transit sheds (the big blue buildings on the docks) sustained moderate damage as the force of the winds pealed back the roofing and siding.  But all in all, we came through relatively unharmed and the Port is fully operational for the traditional busy close to the shipping season. 

Our breakwater (at 5 miles, one of the longest in the nation) obviously took a mighty pounding but largely did its job protecting people and property along our downtown lakefront.  Kudos are due to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its ongoing efforts to maintain the integrity of this critical piece of maritime infrastructure.  If the breakwater were to fail, we could see a devastating storm surge creating scenes not unlike those of mass destruction on the eastern seaboard.  It is imperative that we maintain our breakwater, in partnership with the federal government, and you will be hearing more on this subject in the years to come.         

As you probably know, just last month the Port commissioned two specialized workboats, Flotsam and Jetsam, to remove floating debris from the Cuyahoga River and downtown lakefront. The nearly 26-foot-long aluminum boats are docked at Edgewater Marina. On Monday morning Jim White – our director of sustainable infrastructure programs, who came up with the design concept for Flotsam and Jetsam – was at the Edgewater Marina working with our crew to secure the boats to weather the storm.

 By Tuesday night, 30 boats had sunk at the marina, mostly in the vicinity of where Flotsam and Jetsam are moored. In some cases both the boats and the floating docks to which they were tied were torn away from the main dock and blown into bulkheads where they broke up and sank. Others were lifted by the winds onto the main docks, which then collapsed under the weight and strain.

 Thanks to Jim and the crew, Flotsam and Jetsam came through fine and, in fact, they will be put into service immediately at the request of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (the marina’s landlord) to remove remains of boats that were broken up during the storm and still floating on the water. This debris, incidentally, is known as flotsam and that’s where the name of the boat comes from. (Jetsam is the debris that is thrown from a vessel or from land).   

Outside of Cleveland, the “Superstorm” disrupted shipping across the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System for several days but thankfully no cargo vessels were lost, and most importantly, there was no loss of life.  Time was lost however as ships in transit across the System sought safe harbor or went to anchor to ride out the worst of the storm, which produced sustained winds in excess of 35 knots per hour and gusts of up to 70 KPH.  Wave heights on Lake Erie reached 14 feet.    

Time is a precious commodity itself late in the season on the Great Lakes.   Salties (ships that transit in and out of  the system) race to beat the annual closure of the Seaway locks in late December, and Lakers (ships that stay in the system) hustle to meet shipment quotas before the January closure of the Soo locks connecting lakes Superior and Huron.  Weather disruptions are nothing new to the Great Lakes this time of year, as we all know from Gordon Lightfoot’s famous ballad the Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.  We can expect the gales of November will make their regular return. With today’s Automated Identification System technology, you can track all the shipping activity on the Lakes in real-time.  Just go to:  Your knowledge will really impress your friends. 

You can also see the photos from the storm we have posted on our website: 

As always, please reach out to me or any member of the Port team if we can be of service. 

Flotsam & Jetsam cleanup at Edgewater Marina

The Port’s work boats – Flotsam & Jetsam – helped with the cleanup at Edgewater Marina over the Nov. 3rd weekend. The boats and their crews removed 11 tons of debris that remained in the water after boats were destroyed, towed floating docks that had been torn away from the main docks, and helped tie up damaged vessels in danger of sinking.

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