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First Laker of the 2019 Shipping Season is Out

Mar 23, 2019 05:08AM ● By Editor
 By Brandon Weathers from WDIO-TV - March 23, 2019

The Kaye E. Barker passed under the Aerial Lift Bridge Friday afternoon as the first outbound laker of the 2019 shipping season.

The Kaye E. Barker set out just 13 days after Lake Superior reached it's maximum amount of ice cover. Jayson Hron, the director of communications and marketing for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, said, "We did touch 95% ice cover on Lake Superior this year, for only the 8th time since 1973. Fortunately, the weather turned since then, and we've had substantial melting since then, and as of this morning, the ice cover was south of 60%."

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority says the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Alder and Mackinaw have been clearing the path for ships at the head of the lake since Wednesday. Hron said, "they've been able to open up the path a little bit for the ships that are in winter lay-up."

First Laker of the 2019 Shipping Season is Out

Kelsey Johnson, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, said this first ship of the season is both a sign of Spring and an economic boost. "Every single boat carries about 70 thousand tons of ore, and then it's $23,000 per ton in economic activity. And that's not just in the Duluth area, but that's throughout the entire Great Lakes system," Johnson said. "So it's a really big economic indicator, so I'm really excited about it."

The 2018 season saw the shipment of the most tonnage of iron ore since 1995, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. They're hoping to surpass that this year. "I think we're gonna have a very strong economic year again and I'm really excited about just the level of activity that you see," Johnson said.

Soo Lock is Sault Ste. Marie is scheduled to open on Monday, March 25th, sending salties toward the Twin Ports. You can enter your prediction for the exact time and date the first saltie will arrive for Visit Duluth's First Ship Contest. The deadline is March 24th.

Watch the WDIO-TV Report here

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