Submitted by Jeff Buster on Tue, 05/27/2008 - 16:40.

Cleveland's Port Authority has been spending money on "consultants" studying the feasibility of operating a ferry across Lake Erie to Port Stanley, Ontario. In 2004 Toronto was served by a fast passenger and auto ferry from Rochester, New York.  The Rochester-Toronto ferry service operated for one summer.     The photo above is the empty Toronto terminal - now occupied by a movie making business.

In 2007 Bill Callahan reported on the Cleveland ferry spending on his blog.  A 2006 report in the Painesville News-Herald outlines the complexity of setting up a ferry service - whether in Lake County or Cuyahoga County.


However, to get a sense of the even deeper complexity of international ferry service, read this wikipedia report on the Toronto-Rochester ferry


So, here’s my question:  do you believe that any “consultant” that the Cuyahoga-Cleveland Port Authority could hire would be able to navigate through these complexities and produce a sound study?   


I don’t.


I think the Port Authority is wasting our money on “consultants”.    The ferry business is way over the heads of the Port Authority. 

Toronto-dock---Rochester-fe.jpg75.96 KB
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Cleveland ferry problem is no Plan B


There is, of course, a ferry making money carrying passengers from Sandusky to Pelee Island.  I'm pretty sure that the Port has never asked that company if it would consider trying a route from, say, the Inner Harbor to some harbor on the Ontario side that's not too full of mud.

There's also a new fast ferry apparently making money carrying passengers and a few cars on a two hour run from Milwaukee to Muskegon. 

The Cleveland consultant's feasibility report was delivered five years ago. The operating agreement with Royal Wagenborg was signed three months later, in September 2004. $8 million in Federal earmarks funding to build a terminal was approved in 2005. 

There are two reasons why nothing has happened since, and neither one is "complexity". 

Reason 1: The consultant recommended, and Royal Wagenborg agreed to operate, a large combined passenger/car/truck ferry. A vessel of this size requires a deep, well-maintained harbor facility.  Port Stanley harbor, the preferred destination on the Ontario side, is being divested by the Canadian federal government (so they won't dredge it) but the local government, which supports the ferry project and wants to take over the port, can't get their feds to come to an agreement. Meanwhile, Port Stanley harbor is full of mud and unuseable by a deep-draft vessel.  This state of things has not changed significantly since the original feasibility study was delivered in 2004.

Reason 2: The Port has no Plan B.

Of course, if Port Stanley harbor was ready to go tomorrow, Royal Wagenborg's plan A -- which is big and expensive and needs a lot of passengers and freight to succeed -- might very well lose money like Rochester's. To be fair, though, Wagenborg is a very experienced operator (unlike the Rochester company) and is much more likely to have the capital and flexibility to build a business.  But not without a harbor to sail to.

The Port should have stopped clinging to Plan A at least three years ago.  There are smaller, shallow-draft fast ferries that could take a hundred passengers in and out of Port Stanley right now, tie up in Cleveland's Inner Harbor, and cost a start-up operator a lot less money than the slower Wagenborg model. (Like $3-4 million for a new boat compared to $40 or $50 million.)  There are also a couple of alternative destinations for a smaller boat. With cooperative harbor authorities on both sides of the lake, who says there aren't other companies that might attempt a modest start-up  -- or maybe, like the Pelee Islander owners, a new route?  Maybe the Port of Cleveland could offer to arrange some of its famous financing for a project that actually involved international transportation.

bears scrutinizing

I've always thought that would be such a fine idea, for cars, for bikes, for killing time and getting away from things for a few hours, with a destination at the other end, and wi-fi during the trip, of course.


Toronto restaurants used to be a destination for another generation of our family. There also used to be a Scots-Irish community there to hang with.


I'm optimistic. We're getting passports.

Tower Play

The Cleveland Magazine article by Erick Trickey is up now--Tower Play:

Here's a quote:
Dimora, Jones and Hagan all call the county’s loss on the Ameritrust complex an investment. K&D’s development will generate millions of dollars in taxes, Jones says. That’s a good argument for their recent decisions to sell the complex and clean out the asbestos, but not for their decision tobuy it. When Hagan angrily tells the press to compare the Ameritrust costs to Eaton’s port authority deal, his analogy fails: The port authority didn’t buy the port land and then figure out it couldn’t afford to build the port.


Toronto Fast Ferry Terminal

Has been renamed the Toronto Cruise Ship Terminal.  Read my blog entry on it here: