Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shipping Start-up Heads Up!

Just thought I would pass along some interesting information released by the Port Authority about the upcoming  shipping season.


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.

It’s a bit harder to predict the arrival of the Port’s first oceangoing vessel – what will be the first “saltie” to transit the full GLSLS system in 2012. The Seaway locks (the Montreal/Lake Ontario section and the Welland Canal) will reopen for business on March 22, but Duluth-Superior won’t see
its first saltie in port until a few weeks later. That “first ship” to pass beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge in April will be greeted by maritime officials with a welcoming ceremony and will also qualify a winner for the annual “First Ship Contest” sponsored by the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and Visit Duluth. Last year, the Port’s first saltie, the Federal Leda, arrived on April 11.

“There were some ups and downs during 2011, though the Port of Duluth-Superior ended last year’s shipping season on a positive note – topping 37 million short tons,” noted Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, “That performance was led by a 17 percent increase in iron ore shipments and strong deliveries of limestone, salt, cement and general cargo.”

“While it’s too early to speculate on grain, the outlook for 2012 is just as strong if not slightly better,” said Ojard. “Grain exports face stiff competition in overseas markets; spring and durum wheat exports will depend on world supply and demand plus competitive ocean freight rates. We expect to see more general cargo, with at least a dozen shipments of wind components and other project cargo commitments on the books. Coal volume should increase with additional exports contracted to Europe. The iron mining industry is still the biggest economic driver for shipping here in the Twin Ports; iron ore shipments mirror both domestic and global demand for steel and pellet production on Minnesota’s Iron Range. Absent any major changes in the world economy, plants will continue to run at maximum capacity, and the 2012 shipping season should be steady and strong.”

Close to 1,000 ships will visit the Port of Duluth-Superior this year, moving roughly 40 million tons of cargo – iron ore, coal, grain, limestone, cement, salt, wind turbine components and more. The largest tonnage port by far on the Great Lakes, cargo movements through the Port of Duluth-Superior support 11,500 jobs and contribute over $1.5 billion in business revenues to the local/regional economy.

NOTE: All vessel arrival/departure times are estimates and may change without notice.
For updated times, please consult the Boatwatchers Hotline: (218)722-6489 or


  1. Saw this and far as I know, Presque Isle, Mich is on Lake Huron. How is Mesabi Miner going to get there before SOO locks open?
    Greg Bunting

  2. There are three Presque Isle's on the Great Lakes. One on each of the following lakes.

    -Lake Superior
    -Lake Huron
    -Lake Erie


  3. The Presque Isle on Lake Superior is near Marquette.

  4. Thanks, guys - I thought as much bu couldn't find it on Google maps.
    But I will!