SAULT STE. MARIE - After a request from the Lake Carriers Association, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today the shipping season on Lake Superior will be extended through Tuesday.
U.S. Coast Guard officials at Sault Ste. Marie said the season typically ends on Jan. 15. But this year, the Lake Carriers Association petitioned the Army Corps to leave the Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie operating for three more days. The request was made on behalf of the U.S. and Canadian shipping industry.
"They had several companies who had orders they did not want to forego until the spring," said Mark Gill, director of Vessel Traffic Services for the Coast Guard at Sault Ste. Marie.
The freighters Calumet and Manitowoc dock at the Lake Superior and Ishpeming Upper Harbor ore dock in Marquette last week. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Gill said four or five companies were involved, with a total of between 10 to 12 extra trips expected, each at a value ranging between $750,000 and $1.5 million for the company.
"It's a sizable amount of money, especially in these tough economic times," Gill said.
Personnel at the ore dock in Marquette's Upper Harbor said the Kaye Barker is currently the last ship scheduled to be loaded in Marquette for this shipping season. Dale Hemmila of Cliffs Natural Resources said the Barker, which is being loaded in Marquette today, will make a return trip for loading the last shipment on Monday. But the schedule is subject to change, based on weather conditions or other factors, Hemmila said.
As a result of the time extension, commercial shipping vessels will continue to visit the twin ports of Duluth, Minn. and Superior, Wis., through Tuesday night. In order for ships to reach the Soo Locks before the closure, they would have to leave on Monday, Gill said.
But there will be some boats heading to Duluth-Superior for their final winter lay-up, and consequently, shipping vessel activity will continue there through Tuesday night.
The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge will be locked in the down position beginning tomorrow for winter maintenance. To gain access to the Port of Duluth, commercial shipping vessels will enter through the Superior Entrance Channel and travel down the Superior Front Channel.
To accommodate this development, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder increased the frequency of ice breaking, establishing and maintaining a shipping track in the Superior Front Channel. Coast Guard officials were warning ice anglers and other recreational users of the ice to avoid the shipping channels, plan activities carefully and use caution near the ice.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is jpepin@miningjournal .net.