2014 interlake shipping season expecting slow start as demand rising

By KBJR News 1

March 3, 2014 Updated Mar 3, 2014 at 12:23 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The start to the 2014 interlake shipping season may be approaching faster than Mother Nature will allow.

Currently two and a half feet of ice is clogging vital shipping channels, like the Saint Mary's River.

This, says Duluth Seaway Port Authority President Steve Raukar, is coupled with a built up demand for raw materials, like iron ore, come season's open.

The end of the 2013 shipping season saw ice cutting crews battling ice–choked shipping channels to make way for lakers on their last runs of the season.

Even with the extra push, however, commodities were left behind because of difficult operating conditions.

Port Authority Executive Director Vanta Coda expects a tough, slow start to the season with relatively smaller tonnages being shipped in the first weeks.

But Raukar says the high demand is a good sign for the manufacturing industry, and the region's economy.

"It's indicative of the fact that there is business going on; there is an economy going on," said Raukar, after the monthly Port Authority board meeting Friday. "It just seems to be that there are measurable bottlenecks in the transportation system to get things from point A to point B—from production to market. Mother Nature never has an agenda," he added, laughing.

The 2014 shipping season is expected to open March 25th, with the opening of the Soo Locks.

Billy Wagness
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