CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - More and more cruise ships are disembarking here in Cleveland.
Construction is now underway for a new U.S. Customs processing facility, with hundreds of passengers coming into the port.
About 4,000 cruise ship passengers will pass through the Port of Cleveland by the end of the year.
For some people, their first view of Cleveland is from a cruise ship.
Most cruises come from Canada, but that's changing.
“We're seeing more and more cruise ships being built and coming across the Atlantic Ocean that originate from European cities,” said Dave Gutheil, Chief Commercial Officer with the Port of Cleveland.
He says cruise ships started docking at the port in 2017 with just nine ships.
That went up to 22 ships in 2018.
This year, they'll see about 30 ships.
In 2020, nearly 40 ships are scheduled to dock here.
“This is a boon financially for Cleveland. The Great Lakes is really the last untapped maritime area for the cruise industry around the world,” Gutheil said.
More passengers coming into the port mean more people are getting screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
Right now, they’re working out of a trailer in the port, right on Lake Erie.
But the Port of Cleveland is retrofitting a building about a hundred yards away with three different stations for passengers to streamline processing.
We spoke to Steve Minardi, Chief CBP Officer at the port, last year.
“So it's very important for us to inspect everyone for admissibility, and not let the bad people who want to do bad things come in here, into the country,” he said.
But mostly, they're dealing with friendly tourists. who like to spend.
On average, Gutheil says each person spends $150 in the region.
And they leave with a great first impression.
“People love coming to Cleveland. We hear that over and over again by people getting off the vessels,” Gutheil said.
The new building should be ready in mid-January. It will cost about $650,000, paid for by the Port of Cleveland.
Gutheil say the port is paying for the new U.S. Customs building because it is an economic benefit for the city.
They expect 5,000-6,000 cruise ship passengers a year in the future.