Great Lakes navigation season to open early this year

The following is the text of a press release issued by the Duluth Seaway Port Authority:
(DULUTH, Minn.) — The 2010 commercial navigation season gets underway on the Great Lakes this weekend with the eagerly anticipated early opening of the Soo Locks at 7:00 a.m. (EDT) on Sunday, March 21.
With favorable spring ice conditions and to meet a critical need on the Lower Lakes for iron ore at steel plants and coal at power plants, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved up the date from March 25, and a number of operators are fitting out ships this week to take advantage of the early opening.
The commercial shipping season will commence here in Duluth-Superior just after midnight on Saturday, March 20, with the departure of the Port’s first outbound laker, Interlake Steamship Company’s James R. Barker, from its winter berth at MERC’s Superior Midwest Energy Terminal. Loaded with approximately 65,000 short tons of coal, the Barker will depart via the Superior Entry and actually make two stops, with split deliveries to power plants in St. Clair and Monroe, Mich. (Note: The James R. Barker had the honor of being the Port’s first outbound laker of the 2009 season as well, having departed on March 30 last year, just an hour after the first inbound laker, the Alpena, arrived).
There will be at least six upbound vessels waiting in the St. Mary’s River for the locks at Sault Ste. Marie to open on Sunday, including four Key Lakes/Great Lakes Fleet ships: the Presque Isle headed to Duluth to load iron ore at CN/DMIR Dock 6, and the Roger Blough, Edwin H. Gott, and Edgar B. Speer headed to Two Harbors for pellets; plus two Interlake Steamship Company vessels: the Charles M. Beeghly and Lee A. Tregurtha headed to Silver Bay and Marquette, respectively, also to load ore.
One last entry in the Duluth-Superior record books will be made early next week, when the Port’s first inbound laker arrives – which, at the moment, looks to be either March 22 or 23.
NOTE: All commercial vessels will use the Superior Entry for arrivals/departures until painting of the north tower of the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge is complete, which is scheduled to open by 6:00 p.m.(CDT) on March 31.
The Welland Canal section of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Montreal-Lake Ontario section of the Seaway are both scheduled to open to vessel traffic on March 25, which means the Port of Duluth-Superior will be watching for its first oceangoing vessel to arrive under the Aerial Lift Bridge in early to mid-April. That “first ship†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 Port Authority and Visit Duluth ( Prizes include a weekend getaway to Duluth with hotel accommodations, meals and passes to attractions. Last year’s “first ship,†the Medemborg, arrived on April 12; the Port’s earliest recorded arrival of an oceangoing vessel was April 1, 1995 – the Indian-flagged LT Argosy.
By Professional Mariner Staff