The last oceangoing vessel of the year is scheduled to leave the Port of Duluth-Superior, signaling the beginning of the end of the 2017 commercial shipping season in the Twin Ports and across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system.
Weather permitting, the Beatrix is set to finish loading 12,000 metric tons of spring wheat tonight at the CHS elevator in Superior—grain bound for the United Kingdom
. The 512-foot Wagenborg vessel flies the flag of the Netherlands
. Its estimated time of departure may be 8 p.m. (or later), enabling the ship to clear the Seaway locks by Christmas Day.
Great Lakes freighters will continue to move bulk cargoes in and out of Duluth-Superior and across Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie through mid-January as weather conditions and icebreaking assists allow. The locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.—the Soo Locks—are scheduled to close at midnight on January 15.
Shipping through the Port of Duluth-Superior is poised to end on a strong note, as a surge in shipments of Minnesota iron ore this season have outpaced records not seen in a decade—17.5 million short tons through November—a 35 percent year-over-year increase. That momentum has already pushed the port’s total tonnage past 2016 season-end stats.
Grain shipments fell short compared to the last few years, while coal has held steady and deliveries of project cargo and bulk cargoes like limestone, cement, clay and salt have helped move overall tonnage up 17 percent heading into the final stretch.
Looking ahead, a half-dozen lakers will be spending winter layup in the Twin Ports undergoing some heavy-duty maintenance and repair work in preparation for the Soo Locks to reopen March 25 and the 2018 commercial navigation season to commence.