Springtime in the Port of Duluth

Spring has sprung! The first ship of the season, Mesabi Miner, departs the Port of Duluth Friday morning.

Duluth, Minn., USA—Maritime traffic for the 2012 shipping season is set to get underway this week in the Port of Duluth-Superior with the anticipated departure of the Mesabi Miner in the early morning hours of Friday, March 16.

Having wintered at Midwest Energy Resources Company’s Superior terminal, the vessel is scheduled to be “first out” of the port this season – loaded with coal and headed for Presque Isle, Mich. This will be the first of her three intra-lake deliveries prior to the opening of the locks at Sault Ste. Marie (“Soo Locks”) at 0001 h on Sunday, March 25. The John G. Munson is also scheduled to take on an early season coal cargo in the Twin Ports on March 20 for delivery across Lake Superior.

Thanks, in large part to minimal ice cover on the Great Lakes this year, the Port of Duluth-Superior will start to see a handful of Canadian-flag lakers arriving next weekend (March 23-24) from winter layup in Thunder Bay to take on cargo bound for the lower lakes. They will then secure their place in line with the rest of the downbound traffic at the Soo Locks prior to opening. Likewise, there will be a line-up of upbound lakers on the eastern side of the Locks, which means the Twin Ports will likely see regular maritime traffic patterns resume that last week of March.

Of the vessels that spent the winter here in the Twin Ports, deck departments on eight will begin showing up for fit-out this week and next, including crews of the: Edwin H. Gott, Roger Blough, American Spirit, American Century, Walter J. McCarthy and John J. Boland (in addition to the Munson and Miner). The American Victory and Edward L. Ryerson will remain in layup at Fraser Shipyards where they have been since 2008 and 2009, respectively.

The opening of the Soo Locks each year marks the official start to the 2012 Great Lakes commercial navigation season. The Soo is the gateway that allows vessels – some measuring more than 1,000 feet in length – to move raw materials like iron ore, coal, limestone, cement and salt between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie. It is also one of 16 sets of locks along the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway (GLSLS) that allow oceangoing ships (“salties”) to move breakbulk and project cargoes into this nation’s heartland and deliver Midwestern grains to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. 

If you like shipping news, or would like to know more about the vital transportation artery that supplies and serves northern Minnesota’s massive iron mining industry, a agriculture and energy production try this video from the Duluth Shipping News. It details the wide range of ice conditions that confront the start of the shipping season each year. This year, none.

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