Lake Superior shipping season ends today

The James R. Barker departs the Port of Duluth and Superior on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (YouTube screenshot via Dennis O’Hara)

As cold as it was last week, sailors and dock workers were still on the job in the harsh Lake Superior winds. While there will still be maintenance work to do, the ships are coming in off the water today.

The locks at Sault Ste. Marie close today, marking the end of the shipping season on Lake Superior. Ocean-going vessels (“salties”) already left the port a month ago to get through the St. Lawrence Seaway in time. Several Great Lakes bound ships (“lakers”) are expected to arrive in the Port of Duluth over the next couple days as they lay up for the winter.

One ship, the Canadian laker Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, is expected to pick up taconite in Superior today. However, it will deliver the iron ore to the steel mill at Sault Ste. Marie instead of passing through the locks.

The locks close every year for maintenance, coinciding with the coldest and most dangerous time on Lake Superior.

From the Duluth Seaway Port Authority:

Throughput for the 2016 shipping season is projected to be just over 30 million short tons, down slightly from last season. Shipments of iron ore finally picked up in the last couple of months, up nearly 7 percent from this time last year. A surge in the volume of grain moving out of the Twin Ports during the last half of the shipping season pushed grain stats for the season 27 percent ahead of five-year averages.

Project cargo movements were steady throughout the year, and Duluth Seaway Port Authority officials are looking ahead to 2017 with optimism for additional cargoes moving across its Clure Public Terminal, what with its $18 million dock expansion project complete and multiple shipments of wind energy components on the horizon for spring deliveries.

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