Just across the St. Louis River from Duluth

The Federal Mayumi came into port Saturday evening, April 24th, 2015 and is now at CHS (above) in Superior loading wheat for Italy. This is her first trip to the Twin Ports. The American Integrity was loading coal at Midwest Energy Resources, just up the river from CHS. She departed late this morning with 66,000 tons of coal for the Detroit Edison power plant in St. Clair, Michigan.

First trip for Block to Twin Ports in 2015

The Joseph L. Block came under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge on Saturday afternoon, April 25, 2015. She is here to discharge a cargo of limestone before leaving for Two Harbors to load iron ore pellets.

Visiting the Kom

2015-0415-1039hollyThe Kom arrived on April 13, 2015, the first salt water ship of the season. It was her 5th trip to the Twin Ports; she first visited us on May 26, 1998, just a year after she was built in Varna, Bulgaria. She is owned by Navigation Maritime Bulgare in Varna. Captain Mariyan Yotov lives in Varna and all of the crew live in Bulgaria, some in Varna also.
(Click on any image to see a larger version)
My associate, Holly Jorgenson, joined me. She 2015-0415-959took this picture as we started our visit going carefully up the gangway. After that, it was only 5 more levels until we reached the pilot house. While we were up in the pilot house, the stevedores at CHS 1 were on the deck loading wheat into the cargo holds.There are two important people on any ship; the captain and the cook. Here Holly chats with the cook; it almost looks like she is praying for food.
Holly found Captain Yotov’s Facebook page so you too can share some of his travels around the world. Everybody, and everything has a face book page. I was looking around the web for Kom Peak and found their Facebook page. They just sent me an email titled, Kom Peak confirmed your Facebook friend request. Now I am friends with a mountain!Several years ago, I created a web page for the Kom, and I included a Google Earth map to make sure we all knew where Bulgaria was. Captain Yotov likes maps too so he took us down a floor to give us a short tour around his world. First, he showed us home: Varna, his port city on the Black Sea.
Then to Spain, and the port of LaCoruna, at the northwest tip of Spain, where they began their trip to Duluth.
2015-0415-999When they depart the Twin Ports, they will be taking their cargo of wheat to a port in Italy where it will be used to make pasta. Then all officers and crew will be taking the short flight home to Varna; to be replaced by another all Bulgarian crew. I emphasize this since we don’t see this much anymore; Greek owned, operated and crewed ships (with a great Greek cook I might add) were here often and Polish ships the same. For a while the Dutch ships with all Dutch crews were here from the Netherlands. In fact, the captains on some of the Dutch ships have also been part owners of the ship they were on. That was nice; it was almost like visiting the country. Today, costs are cut and many companies have left the shipping business; crews are now often found from other countries with lower pay scales. So we welcome the Kom, a small part of Bulgaria, to Duluth Superior, still holding their country’s maritime heritage and helping us with ours.
The Captain is often asked, as he was here, where the name Kom came from. It is named for Kom Peak in the Balkan Mountains in western Bulgaria, not far from the Serbian border. Above we see the view from the top of Kom Peak. The peak is 6,614 feet high and is a popular site for hikers. The country has many interesting neighbors; Romania to the north; Serbia and Macedonia to the west; Greece to the south and Turkey to the southeast. And of course, a long coastal connection to the beautiful Black Sea. Above, the view from the top of Kom’s Peak. Below, the city of Varna.
2015-0415-1010On the way to sunny, almost warm Duluth, the Kom was caught up in the big ice jam at Whitefish Point in the eastern part of Lake Superior, just this side of the Soo Locks. Captain Yotov took us out to show us the bow of his ship which made countless surges into the ice; the white lines are the marks the ice left on her bow to show us they were there.
Below, the Kom comes in for more grain on November 27, 2014.

Kom comes to Duluth

The Kom came under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge early this afternoon (April 13, 2015). She is the first salt water ship to arrive for the season, beginning her voyage in LaCoruna, Spain. She will load 12,100 tons of durum wheat for Italy where it will be milled into flour for pasta. This is her 4th visit to the Twin Ports; she was here 3 other times in November of 2008, 2010 and 2014. On each trip, as today, she will load grain at the CHS 1 grain terminal in Superior.
She had help from 2 Great Lakes Towing tugs, the Minnesota on her stern and the Arkansas on the bow.

Callaway under the Bridge


The Cason J. Callaway departed Duluth on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, April 11, 2015, at 2:45 with iron ore pellets loaded at the CN dock in West Duluth.

Gott and Cort arrive under Lift Bridge

The Edwin H. Gott arrived Duluth (above) on Friday morning, April 10, 2015 to load iron ore pellets at the CN dock in West Duluth. She was originally scheduled to spend winter layup in Duluth but spent layup in Milwaukee instead. Although owned and operated by Great Lakes Fleet, headquartered in Duluth, she was only here 3 times last year. She spends most of her season loading iron ore pellets in Two Harbors and taking them to Gary.2015-0403-716 Earlier this  week, the Stewart J. Cort came under the Lift Bridge (left) to get fuel at the  Calumet fuel dock at the Port Terminal before going to the BNSF Dock in Superior to load iron ore pellets. That has been her destination for many many years, and since the BNSF is just inside the Superior entry, we seldom see here coming under the Lift Bridge.

One finally out, four expected Friday

The Whitefish Bay ice pack, assaulted by many Canadian and US Coast Guard vessels, and undoubtedly helped by warmer temperatures, broke up, and freed the vessels stopped in the ice for many days. Unfortunately, the downbound vessels have a long waiting line to get through the Soo Locks. Meanwhile the American Integrity finally departed Duluth this afternoon (April 9, 2015), the first departure from the Twin Ports in 4 days.

Whitefish Bay ice stops shipping on Lake Superior

Check out this slideshow from Reuters

Kaye E. Barker departs Duluth

listenwhistlebarblue-2The Kaye E. Barker began her season this morning, April 2, 2015, going under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge at 9:50 am. Above, she is just made the turn toward the bridge after fueling at the Calumet fuel dock at the Port Terminal. She spent winter layup at Fraser Shipyards.  Listen as she salutes the bridge while going out to the lake.

Gott goes to Two Harbors

After battling the ice in Whitefish Bay, at the other end of Lake Superior,  and with the considerable help of the Alder and the Mackinaw, the Edwin H. Gott, finally arrived back in the bright blue waters off the port of Duluth, coming under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge on Monday morning, March 30, 2015. After getting some maintenance at the listenwhistlebarblue-2Port Terminal, she departed for Two Harbors to pick up a cargo of iron ore pellets on Tuesday afternoon, March 31 (above and below). Listen as she salutes the bridge while going out to the lake.

Mesabi Miner goes back to work

After a couple days getting some early season maintenance done at the Port Terminal, the Mesabi Miner pulled away on Sunday afternoon, March 29, 20125 from her berth there (above). After turning around, she made her way over to Midwest Energy where she would load 58,000 tons of coal for Minnesota Power’s plant at Taconite Harbor.

Mesabi Miner back in Duluth

After the Mesabi Miner lost the race to be the first to depart the port, she settled for 2nd place, taking coal to Taconite Harbor. She turned around and headed back to Duluth, arriving at 8:51 (above) this morning (March 26, 2015) and easily winning the first to arrive trophy. But all was not so good; she will undergo a couple days of maintenance at the Port Terminal (below) before returning to Midwest Energy for more coal. She sits in loose ice here, but that is better than the John G. Munson. She is having lots of trouble with ice just this side of the Soo Locks. Both the Mackinaw and the Alder are working to clear a path through the ice for her to continue down bound to Gary and for the Edwin H. Gott and the Roger Blough to continue up bound.

John G. Munson departs Duluth

After spending the winter at the Fraser Shipyards, the John G. Munson loaded iron ore pellets at the CN Dock in West Duluth. She is seen here departing with the first cargo of the new season, taking it down to Gary. She left at 5:29 pm on Monday, March 23rd, almost a week later than our usual first departure.

First movement of the season

Above, the John G. Munson is backing out from Howard’s Pocket and her winter berth, while the Heritage Marine tug Nels J. moves ahead of her. They are both headed for the Calumet Fuel Dock. The Munson to fuel before going to CN Duluth to load iron ore pellets for Gary  and the Nels J. to make sure the ice did not cause any problems (and it did not). Just below, the Munson eases by the winter berth of the American Integrity.

Getting ready for this Spring, and next Spring

The above picture was taken on St. Patrick’s Day showing that, with the help of Mother Nature and her warm weather, and a bit of an assist from the Alder, the port is ready for ship traffic to begin. But …

… work began earlier this week (above, on March 21st, 2015) on the new Pier B waterfront hotel project which will be located beside the silos formerly used by Lafarge Cement when they discharged cement from the Alpena and the J.A.W. Iglehart. The project will include a new, 140-room hotel with a waterfront restaurant, boardwalk and boat ramp. There is significant site preparation including the removal of the side buildings next to the silos, above. The silos will stay but their use has not yet been determined. As at one other well-known site, there will be a bridge that will allow pedestrians to cross over a slip to the facility. Developers promise that this pedestrian bridge will work, perhaps because it will by a sliding bridge and not a lift bridge. And I doubt they will paint it blue.

On the other side of the silos rests the Sundew (below) and happily, she will stay. Sundew owner Jeff Foster is also a member of the development group.

Ironically, this week also brought news of the pending merger of Lafarge Cement (still with a Superior facility that the Alpena continues to visit) and Holcim, operators of the cement dock in Duluth, formerly owned by St Lawrence Cement.

Great Lakes Ice Coverage slipping away

from Petoskeynews.com (Petoskey is a town on the north east shore of Lake Michigan)

Posted: Monday, March 16, 2015 1:19 pm

Mark Johnson (989) 732-1111mjohnson@gaylordheraldtimes.com

NORTHERN MICHIGAN — It appears spring is finally here and with the end to another brutal winter comes the end of another year of extensive Great Lakes ice coverage.

According to George Leshkevich, physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, total Great Lakes ice coverage peaked Feb. 28 at approximately 88.7 percent combined among the five lakes.

Though some of the lakes — Erie, Huron and Superior — approached almost complete ice cover, the total of 88.7 percent fell short of the ice coverage mark set last year on March 6, and approximately 6 percent short of the record set in 1979 at 94.7 percent.

“The way things are going now, we are looking at an earlier breakup and an earlier ice-off date (compared to 2014),” Leshkevich said. “Last year was extreme.”

According to statistics compiled by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, out of all of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie reached the highest ice coverage percent at 98.09 percent on Feb. 18.

Lake Ontario also experienced its peak ice coverage Feb. 18, when 82.6 percent of the lake was covered in ice.

Coming in at No. 2 for highest total ice coverage was Lake Huron, recording an ice coverage of 96.28 percent on March 6.

Lakes Superior and Michigan both reached their maximum ice coverage Feb. 28, with Lake Michigan recording 72.8 percent ice coverage and Lake Superior 95.5 percent.

Since reaching those numbers, warmer temperatures and larger amounts of sunlight among other factors have began to break up the large quantities of ice.

“It is going down now,” Leshkevich said in regard to the melting ice. “Even if we get another cold snap, it would have to be really cold for really long to turn things around.”

Leshkevich said the ice coverage patterns this year are about normal, as the lower Great Lakes — Erie and Ontario — typically reach maximum ice coverage between the middle and end of February, while the upper Great Lakes — Michigan, Superior and Huron — usually reach peak ice coverage sometime during the first half of March.

Unless there is another cold spell, the ice cover should continue to melt as spring approaches, unlike 2014 when Leshkevich said some amount of ice cover remained on Lake Superior until June 6.

But with the unpredictable Michigan weather patterns, Leshkevich said anything is possible.

“Things could still turn around,” he said. “Cold weather could prolong (the ice cover).”

Follow @Mark_JohnsonGHT on Twitter.

3 Chiefs


Dave Campbell, Chief operator on the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, LCDR Anthony J. Maffia, Commanding officer Coast Guard cutter Alder and Vanta E. Coda II, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority are just outside the bridge on the Alder enjoying the almost warm weather this morning (March 12, 2015).

listenwhistlebarblue-2Listen as we salute the bridge while going out to the lake. You will first hear a warning they gave us just before blowing the whistle; I think it says, “Ears on deck,”  meaning hold your ears.
The Alder was the first vessel to go under the Lift Bridge this season.  That gave a chance for Campbell to go under the bridge.  He has gone up with the bridge thousands of times; this was only his 3rd time to go under the bridge.
Below, we are just about to leave the ice and go for a short trip on the open water of Lake Superior, about 5 miles out.
The temperature was pretty warm for March 12, but inside the pilot  house, where the smart people stay, it was nice and warm.
We returned using the track we had opened up on the way out; notice the wind was already moving it around; we left a straight track behind us.
Some of the bridge operators had to say hello to the boss as he passed under them.
Great Lakes Towing Company tugs North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana and Minnesota are already in open water. Behind them, the American Integrity spent the winter at the Port Authority dock at Holcim Cement.
The Mesabi Miner has been at Midwest Energy Resources for the winter. With no cargo, she is high in the water (ice) but will soon be loading coal and will likely be the first commercial boat to depart the port within the next week.

We’re off

The US Coast Guard cutter Alder departed her dock right on time, 9 am, March 9, 2015. As always, she was the first vessel movement in the port since January.

The good old days

While we wait for the Alder to open up the season, probably on Monday, March 9, here is a video I created during the beginning of the 2007 season.

Duluth Layup, 2003-04

Is that water out there??

Taken on March 2, 2015

Seems like only yesterday


The article above about the Duluth Shipping News, and its publisher custodian  and head writer, appeared in the Winter, 2014-15 edition of the Port Authority’s quarterly magazine, North Star Port. Click the pic for a larger, more readable version.

Waiting and waiting

If UPS isn’t delivering that spare part you need for your refrigerator or the computer you ordered last month, it is probably in a container on one of these ships sitting at anchor off the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. I recently purchased an Apple IPhone to be delivered by UPS. They gave me a tracking link so I could follow its progress. Most of what I buy is sitting in a warehouse somewhere in this country, actually probably in an Amazon warehouse. This one started in China so I followed it while it waited at the dock in China, made a stop in Japan and then headed across the Pacific Ocean.
With West Coast docks off-line due to a strike by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) with port operators along the U.S. West Coast, industries of all kinds are preparing for the worst. And in a global economy, the worst can be anything; coffee prices may go up as importers move to use air planes to move the beans, cars you bought in Japan that will not get here and parts for cars built here that depend upon parts built there will not get off the assembly line. And it goes the other way too. Fruit, meat and many other commodities are not getting to countries that depend on US farmers for food. And that is just the cargo that is waiting to be shipped; there is a lot of cargo sitting in the containers on these big ships; some of it perishable
Pictures courtesy of the LA Times; more here: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ports-20150219-story.html#lightbox=82843219&slide=1

My Twitter feed, not so good

Some years ago, I thought Twitter was kind of stupid. Then I started to read what David Carr of the New York Times was writing about it. Then I started to read most everything that Carr wrote. He alerted me to check my Twitter feed each morning, if I was a reporter or if I wanted to know what was going on in the world. So I started to do that and now i know everything that is going on in the world. Unfortunately, last night, as I was going through my Twitter feed, I read davidcarr2015-02-13_9-58-41that Carr had just collapsed in the news room of the New York Times and died in the hospital shortly after. As he promised, many read about his death in their Twitter feed last night before seeing it anywhere else. At first, I did not believe it, thinking it was just another internet false alarm. I went to the New York Times web site where his death was confirmed.

Earlier in the evening he led a panel discussion. The picture here was taken then, just hours before he died.

In reading about him last night, I found he was a Minneapolis guy and worked for the Reader many years ago. I read him there too, long before Twitter or the Internet was invented.

Twitter lets you know on the side of the screen what topics are trending at the moment and it came as no surprise that David Carr leads the list today. He was only 58 and I will miss him greatly.

We will soon lose Jon Stewart who may have been the only good source for real news we had, even if it was disguised as fake news. Stewart of course is still very much alive and pondering his next adventure.

Bob Simon died Wednesday night in a hospital after a car accident in New York City. It was the same hospital where Carr would die the next night. Simon was a foreign correspondent for CBS and has been on Sixty Minutes for many years. He stood out from many news people with a unique style and insight. During the early days of the Gulf War in 1991, while he was on assignment to cover the war, he was captured by the Iraqi army, imprisoned and tortured for 6 weeks, taking his job of foreign correspondent a little too seriously.

During his imprisonment, CBS prepared an obituary tape to be used if he did not return. It took him a long time before he could look at his ‘obituary.’ Unfortunately, we may soon be able to see it now.

He is still on the Twitter trending list, just below BritishSexPositions.

I experienced a new, and somewhat strange, emotion after reading about Carr on Twitter. I of course never knew him but I read his many tweets every day and felt a little like I did know him. I lost a friend I came to know only 140 characters at a time but for a long time.

Some ice, some water and two sharks

On Tuesday, February 3, 2015. No groundhogs here so we settled for some dancing sharks on the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. Here is a link to the full Katy Perry Super Bowl 12 minute show