(NNCNOW.com) --- The first cargo ships of the season are scheduled to leave the Duluth-Superior harbor Saturday as early as midday.
Crews on the Coast Guard Cutter Alder as well as tugs will continue to break up the ice, which is five feet thick in some places.
Port authority leaders anticipate travel times to be about twice what they normally are.
If needed, the Coast Guard will be leading convoys across Lake Superior.
Saturday, Great Lakes Fleet Carriers are expected to begin their route to Two Harbors to load iron ore pellets bound for steel mills on the lower great lakes.
These vessels have reinforced hulls able to withstand significant ice pressure.
Inbound Lakers are expected to arrive to load around April first.