Arrowhead Region sees relief from convoy of in-bound lakers, fighting for "normalcy"

By KBJR News 1

May 1, 2014 Updated May 1, 2014 at 6:12 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The restlessness felt by those in the ports across the Great Lakes shipping system is at its peak on the heels of the Twin Ports' first major in–bound delivery Wednesday.

According to Duluth Seaway Port Authority Manager Adele Yorde, it's a reminder of the workload ahead of them.

"We pretty much lost April," said Yorde, at the Port Authority offices Thursday, "so, we're heading into May, and everybody will be working expediently to get those ships to their docks to load them, to turn them, to get them back out on open water."

The open water is there, but so is the ice, and the wind keeps it moving.

As of Wednesday afternoon, ice flows were still relatively thick in the eastern part of Lake Superior, from Whitefish Bay to Keweenaw.

"...and becoming dangerous obstacles to hit in the middle of the night," said Yorde, "which is why nighttime transits weren't happening for a while."

The main objective is still getting coal and iron ore down to the steel mills and power plants along the lower Great Lakes, which have suffered or even closed temporarily due to no raw materials.

But Yorde says the Arrowhead Region has had needs of its own, like the need for limestone in mining operations along the Iron Range.

"There have been just as many folks waiting for those first vessels to arrive, and [Wednesday they] did," said Yorde, "so, we've got limestone on the dock again."

But the demand for raw materials is fueling another industry.

As the interlake shipping season works around the clock to return to normal, boat watchers are popping up along the Duluth Harbor piers.

"Because this is the only place within 2,342 miles that you can watch ships come in of that size," said Gene Shaw of Visit Duluth.

Shaw says following vessels through the Great Lakes on on–line tracking maps has only heightened the boat watching buzz.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority says the Twin Ports could see its first saltie of the season as early as the middle of next week.

Billy Wagness
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