The Twin Ports’ shipping season finally begins today, with the arrival of the Alpena carrying cement bound for the Lafarge terminal in Superior and the departure of the James R. Barker bearing about 57,000 tons of coal for a power plant in Presque Isle, Mich.
This has been an uncharacteristically slow start for the port. Typically, local docks spring into action in anticipation of the Soo Locks opening March 25. But not this year, with the economy in the doldrums and steel mills operating at only 40 to 45 percent of capacity. That means a whole lot less demand for iron ore pellets.
Often freighters are lined up waiting for the Soo Locks to open March 25. However, the locks saw no traffic until Sunday, March 29, this year.
The 1,004-foot James R. Barker began loading coal this morning at Midwest Energy Resources Co.’s terminal in Superior and left at about 3 p.m. That should put the laker at the Duluth lift bridge around 4 p.m.
The Alpena was the first to cross under the bridge this season, arriving at around 3 p.m. The same 519-foot member of the Inland Lakes fleet also earned the distinction late Sunday of being the first upbound vessel to pass through the Soo Locks.
The first downbound vessel to reach the Soo Locks this year was the Joyce L. Van Enkevort, powering a barge called the Great Lakes Trader. The vessel is carrying iron ore pellets from Marquette, Mich. to Toledo, Ohio and arrived at the locks Sunday afternoon.