DULUTH – The Port of Duluth-Superior is preparing to welcome its first oceangoing ship ("saltie") of the 2013 commercial shipping season. The Hong Kong-flag Federal Hunter is expected to arrive on Friday afternoon, March 29, which would also put it first in Twin Ports' history books as the earliest arrival for a full transit of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway (GLSLS) system.
The previous record was set by the India-flag LT Argosy on April 1, 1995.
Adding to weekend excitement is the anticipated Saturday arrival of a sister ship, the Cyprus-flag Federal Elbe, almost on Hunter's heels.
The Elbe will likely sit at anchor for a day or two before loading.
The Federal Hunter began her voyage in Rostock, Germany, discharging cargo in Contrecoeur, Quebec, before proceeding to the Twin Ports.
Scheduled to arrive beneath Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge, the 656-ft (200m) vessel will make its way to the CHS elevator in Superior to load durum and spring wheat.
It is anticipated that the Hunter will depart late Monday with approximately 15,000 metric tons (16,535 short tons) onboard, stop in Thunder Bay to top-off with another 5,000 tons of Canadian spring wheat, then retrace her route through the system and across the Atlantic for deliveries in France and the UK.
The Hunter is under the command of Captain Khalil Zamindar.
Local vessel agent is Daniel's Shipping Services; Heritage Marine handled icebreaking at the elevator; stevedoring is being handled by Ceres Terminals; Lakeshead Forwarding is serving as freight forwarders for CHS; tug assistance is being provided by Great Lakes Towing.
"We are very proud to open the 2013 season for international shipping in Duluth/Superior with the Federal Hunter, said Paul Pathy, Fednav president and co-CEO. "We are looking forward to a good season in the Lakes, and particularly in the Twin Ports. Fednav is clearly committed to the Great Lakes-Seaway System, a system that is a valuable part of the economy for both the U.S. and Canada."
Fednav Group, the largest oceangoing user of the St. Lawrence Seaway with an average of 100 voyages each year, is increasing the capacity of its fleet in the Lakes.
The company recently ordered six new vessels from shipyards in Japan, bringing to nine the number of new Lakes ships delivered or ordered since 2011 – all state-of-the-art vessels built to be more fuel efficient and to reduce emissions as well as to accommodate the installation of ballast water treatment equipment once Coast Guard type-approved.
The Port of Duluth-Superior provides a direct link between the heartland of North America and markets in Europe and other Mediterranean/North African countries.
"Utilizing this inland marine highway keeps transportation costs competitive and enables Midwestern farmers – as well as providers of other bulk commodities like coal and iron ore plus shippers of heavy lift and project cargo – to compete in a global marketplace," said Adolph Ojard, Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director.
"The Great Lakes-Seaway system begins – and ends – here in the Twin Ports; it's what connects us to the world and makes this port an international seaport along what is often called our nation's fourth seacoast."
The Federal Hunter's arrival is more than a week earlier than last year's first saltie, the Arubaborg, which sailed into port on April 6, 2012.