Mustang pellets from the Iron Range


The James R. Barker arrived under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge about 4pm. She is here to pick up the first of many cargos of Mustang iron ore pellets created at Cliffs Natural Resources facilities on the Iron Range. The Barker will deliver the new pellets to Cliffs’ customer ArcelorMittal’s steel mill in Indiana Harbor (the largest blast furnace in North America). The iron ore is mined at UTAC’s “Thunderbird” mine in Eveleth and transported approximately 10 miles by rail to the “Fairlane” plant in Forbes where limestone and dolomite are added to the iron ore.

The pellets are created to maximize the efficiency of this particular blast furnace. Some of this processing was previously done at the blast furnace, thus saving ArcelorMittal time and money at their end. It has higher levels of limestone and dolomite than standard iron ore pellets that allow it to more easily flow through blast furnace No. 7. Cliffs started production of their new Mustang superflux pellet in mid-May. They built a storage facility, silos, a limestone crusher, conveyors and rail infrastructure to support the production of the pellets and their transfer to railcars for the short trip to the CN dock in Duluth.

The mine, located in Eveleth, was constructed in the mid-1960’s by Ford Motor Company. In honor of Ford, the pellets are called “Mustang” pellets, mined at UTAC’s “Thunderbird” mine in Eveleth and shipped to the “Fairlane” plant in Forbes, Minnesota for more processing before being loaded onto rail cars and shipped to Duluth.

Barker picture taken on July 15, 2015 as she was departing Duluth with coal. Picture just above, courtesy of Cliffs Natural Resources, shows some of the first Mustang pellets created at the new facility.

Isolda makes first visit to Riverland Ag

The Isolda arrived Duluth on May 31, 2017 and is now loading grain at Riverland Ag (above). This is her 27th visit here since she was built in 1999. She was last here on July 14, 2015. Since then she has had a significant paint job, dropping the very familiar blue color to black. See Denny Dushane’s comment on the Isolda ship page. She has loaded grain during all her visits, loading mostly at AGP and CHS during her earlier visits, then at Peavey for visits in 2014 and 2015.

Silda discharging cement at Holcim

The Silda has been discharging cement at the Holcim dock in Duluth. Holcim is operated by LafargeHolcim, founded in 2015 following the merger of Lafarge and Holcim. For many years, the location was operated by St. Lawrence Cement.

Busy morning in Duluth harbor

The Isolda came under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge this morning at 7:10 and with the assistance of the tug Kentucky, went straight into the dock at Riverland Ag, directly across the Duluth harbor from the bridge. Twenty minutes later, the Herbert C. Jackson arrived, passing the Isolda on her way to discharge limestone. This is the first trip back to the Twin Ports since the Jackson left her winter layup at Fraser Shipyards on March 23, this year, on her way to load iron ore pellets at Silver Bay. The Isolda was last here in July, 2015.

Silda brings cement into the Duluth harbor

The Maltese flagged Silda arrived Duluth at 4:30 Monday afternoon, May 29, 2017 (Memorial Day). This is her first trip to the Twin Ports. I thought about going to some local bars to make some bets about her cargo while she sat at anchor off the Duluth piers. I would say cement, and everybody else would say no no, and I would win. Or least if they were as dumb as I was 22 years ago when someone told me a boat coming into port was filled with cement. No way
She was assisted by two Great Lakes Towing tugs, just above, the Arkansas on the left and the Kentucky on the right.

Goodbye to Wes Harkins

At the age of 96, Wes Harkins died peacefully last night (May 26, 2017), the last of the big three ‘old guys’ in Duluth. Dick Bibby and “Gil” Porter left Wes to us a few years ago).
Wes was a wonderful help to me as I tried to catch up to the shipping business in Duluth; Wes was always there for me. Above left, he was a frequent visitor to my office (left). In March, 2000 as the finishing touches were applied to the nearly rebuilt Aerial Lift Bridge, we held an informational meeting about the bridge. We had a raffle at the end of the meeting; Wes won the beautiful replica he had in his hands. We were happy for Wes but he should not have been allowed to participate in the raffle. In his house, he had many many pieces, some quite big, given to him by many people over the years. He didn’t need this.
Wes retired in the early 80’s, but 30 years later, he still knew people all over the Great Lakes. And he was listened to; people wanted to know what he thought about things. Above, he attended the rechristening of the Hon. James R. Oberstar in May, 2011 in Duluth. Many from Interlake were here; it was their party. Wes was sought out by many old friends including the two above. Paul C. LaMarre III,  now director of the Monroe (Mich) Port Authority, is on Wes’ right.
It was not hard for USS Freedom executive officer Commander Kris Doyle (at left above), to impress four Duluth old timers with her brand new ship after it arrived in Duluth in October, 2008. After answering their questions, she nicely updated the old hands with a tour of one of the Navy’s most advanced ships.

While winding up the tour on the deck of the ship (below), Wes Harkins, at left, retired, Fraser Shipyard, showed Doyle a picture of the USS Paducah, a ship Wes left Duluth on in 1940. To Doyle’s left, Dick Bibby, retired, M.A. Hanna Co. and World War 2 merchant marine, Commander “Gil” Porter, retired US Coast Guard and former Great Lakes pilot and at right, Davis Helberg, former Duluth Seaway Port Authority director all agreed it was a new Navy. I don’t want to go into detail but there was some concern about hearing about the ship from a ‘woman.’ Those concerns were quickly dashed as Commander Doyle gave them a seminar on ships in the new Navy. (Commander Doyle later took command of the ship.)

Late in 1999, Lower Lakes Towing purchased the John J. Boland, a boat that had been sitting in Fraser Shipyards for some years. In October, 2009, Captain John Wellington (above, center) was hired to bring the tug Roger Stahl to Duluth to tow the newly purchased boat, to be called the Saginaw, to Sarnia. Wellington arrived on October 24, 1999. Wellington has a long history with Duluth so it was no surprise that Wes Harkins (left) and Dick Bibby (right) were down to greet him in the Roger Stahl pilot house.  Below, Wes worked the lines as we pulled away from the Port Authority dock to go over to Fraser.
Authors Bill Beck and C. Patrick Labadie published  the Pride of the Inland Seas: An Illustrated History of the Port of Duluth-Superior in collaboration with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in July 2004. Wes and Gil were a large part of that history; they were there (above) to get their copy. Just below, Fred Cummings is making sure everyone is behaving as they lined up to get their books signed,
from the Winter 2008-09 Duluth Seaway Port Authority magazine, North Star Port.
At 1:15 p.m. on May 3, 1959, a young marine writer/photographer from Skillings Mining Review magazine who was perched atop the Aerial Lift Bridge caught on film the arrival of the Ramon de Larrinaga, the first deep-draft ocean ship to sail the new St. Lawrence Seaway system to the Port of Duluth-Superior. When Wesley “Wes” Harkins shot that picture, he captured an image that would stand the test of time. Harkins snapped thousands of photos during his notable career at the magazine and as public and industrial relations director for Fraser Shipyards. This year’s Port Authority calendar features his photo of the Larrinaga in a tribute to the Seaway’s 50th anniversary.
FINAL-Proof-2009-Calendar-10032274sm FINAL-Proof-2009-Calendar-10032274justpic
More about Wes on Duluth Shipping News.
Wes took this shot of Cason J. Callaway and his family coming down from his boat in July, 1958
He took this shot during winter layup at Fraser Shipyards in 1964-65

Blacky and Trudy slowed by rain

The Blacky arrived Duluth on May 14, 2017 to load wheat at Riverside Ag (above). She departed 5 days later, on May 19, for the port of Cadiz in Spain. The Blacky is owned by Navarone Marine Enterprises on Cyprus and is on long term charter to Canadian Forest Navigation (Canfornav), headquartered in Montreal. They operate a fleet of over 40 ocean-going vessels that they use to connect Great Lakes ports to the rest of the world. Many of their ships are named for ducks, such as Bluebill, Chestnut, Maccoa, Mottler, Ruddy, and Tufty.  Most have been to Duluth on several occasions.

Trudy arrived Duluth on May 12 to discharge kaolin clay at the Port Terminal. She also left 7 days later, on May 19 (below). Both were handling bulk cargo that is not usually moved when it is raining, as it was in Duluth this past week, delaying both ships.