Duluth, Minn. ---- March 21, 2014-- – Near record-setting thick and fast ice across the Great Lakes has slowed the start of the 2014 navigation season. However, traffic is set to start moving in the Port of Duluth-Superior as early as midday tomorrow – Sat., March 22 – with the anticipated departure of two Great Lakes Fleet carriers: the Cason J. Callaway and the Presque Isle. Both will head to Two Harbors, where they will load iron ore pellets bound for steel mills on the Lower Lakes. Plans are to have a third fleet mate that wintered in the Twin Ports – the John G. Munson – join them in Two Harbors to load on Sunday or Monday. All three vessels are operated by Key Lakes, Inc., and all have reinforced hulls able to withstand significant ice pressure here at the Head of the Lakes.
Those three lakers will then await the arrival of three U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers – the Mackinaw, Morro Bay and Katmai Bay – who are currently cutting tracks across Lake Superior from the Soo Locks to Duluth. After a respite to restock/refuel, the USCG units will depart, slowing down just long enough near Two Harbors to pick up and escort the GLF vessels in a convoy across the Lake and through the St. Marys River and locks at Sault Ste. Marie.
Heritage Marine tug, the Helen H., worked Thursday to break ice in the slip where the Presque Isle wintered in anticipation of her weekend departure from the Port of Duluth-Superior
Local icebreaking assets – USCG cutter Alder and commercial tugs from Heritage Marine and Great Lakes Towing – will continue working to open up tracks here in the Duluth-Superior Harbor as the Mesabi Miner is scheduled to load coal at the Superior Midwest Energy Terminal early next week for delivery to Taconite Harbor, then return to reload for a trip to Marquette. Additional vessels that wintered over in the Twin Ports (including the Kaye E. Barker, Great Republic, American Spirit, St. Clair, Walter J. McCarthy) are fitting-out and plan to get underway within the next couple of weeks.
With ever-changing ice conditions and weather patterns, plans are to have Coast Guard assists for upbound vessel traffic as well, so terminals in the Twin Ports can expect to see the first inbound lakers arrive to load around April 1. Oceangoing (i.e. ‘saltie’) traffic will be later as locks in the far eastern end of the Seaway system aren’t set to open until March 31.