U.S.-flag lakers will begin moving in the Port of Duluth-Superior as the 2013 shipping season gets underway on the far Western edge of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system. The Mesabi Miner is expected to be the port’s first departure of the season, being scheduled to begin loading coal on March 19 at the Superior Midwest Energy Terminal. The Canadian-flag CSL Tadoussac is also set to head to Duluth to load iron ore pellets at CN.

The departing lakers will secure their places in line with other downbound traffic near Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to await the reopening of the Soo Locks on March 25. Likewise, there will be a line-up of upbound lakers on the Eastern side of the locks.

The Soo Locks are the gateway that allows lake carriers – some measuring more than 1,000 feet in length – to move raw materials like iron ore, coal, limestone, cement and salt between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie. It is also one of 16 sets of locks along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway that allows oceangoing ships to move breakbulk and project cargoes in and out of North America’s heartland and deliver Midwestern grains to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

“We ended the 2012 season having moved just shy of 37 million short tons of cargo through the Port of Duluth-Superior,” noted Adolph Ojard, Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director, “nearly on par with the previous year. If the U.S. steel market remains strong and the resurgence of manufacturing in and around the Great Lakes basin continues, iron ore shipments should keep a strong pace. Projections for coal exports are up, plus the extension of wind production tax credits should see project cargoes pick up by fall. Depending on weather patterns and global economies, we’d also hope for marginal improvements in grain exports. All in all, Port of Duluth-Superior should see an increase in activity during 2013.”