Molly M1 back with more stuff

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The tug Molly M1 arrived Duluth this morning at 5:19 with a barge loaded with 2 pressure container vessels that will be taken from Duluth to Alberta, Canada where they will be used in oil recovery operations. She was here once before, in July, 2015, with a cargo of machinery to discharge. In the picture, piece to the left is still on the barge; the other piece (right) has already been discharged

Tug Cleveland being built in Cleveland

nprmarketplacegreatlakestoving-tugclevelandJoeStarckpresgltmarketplace.The February 10th, 2017 edition of NRP’s Marketplace (click above to listen) carried a nice story about the Great Lakes Towing Company building a new tug, the Cleveland (model at left), during the Great Lakes winter break. Below, workers are building the new tug in Great Lakes Towing’s own shipyard in Cleveland. At the right, GLT’s president Joe Starck talking to the Marketplace reporter about their new tug. Pictures from Markeplace web page.
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New tug for port arrives

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Built in 1974 by the Marinette Marine Corporation of Marinette, Wisconsin for the United States Navy, this 107 foot long tug was purchased from the Navy in 2002 by McAllister Towing and Transportation of New York, and named Daniel McAllister. In 2015, she was purchased by Great Lakes Towing and renamed Huron. She arrived Duluth to join the Great Lakes Towing Twin Ports fleet on January 2, 2017.
More pictures and information here

2 First-time visitors to Duluth

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The Canadian flagged Leonard M. (above) arrived last night at 7:40 pushing the barge Huron Spirit filled with steel coils from Essar Steel Algoma Inc. located at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. At 7:13 this morning (June 16, 2016), the Marselisborg arrived with wind turbine parts she is discharging at the Port Terminal.
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Heritage Marine story in Professional Mariner

20130413_8316The current issue of Professional Mariner (December-January 2016) has a wonderful article on Michael Ojard and his company Heritage Marine, located in Knife River and providing tug service in the Port of Duluth Superior. At right is my picture of his tug Nels J. working in the ice on April 13, 2013.

Sara Summers found the sun and the J.B. Ford

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The Heritage Marine tugs Nels J. (at left below) and Helen H. (above and on the right below) escorted the J. B. Ford on her last trip on October 9, 2015, going from her long time layup dock in Superior to the Azcon scrapyard in Duluth. The three vessels made the trip with the just rising sun making good shots a challenge but Sara Summers, a Park Ranger at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center (the Marine Museum at the Duluth ship canal), was up to the task, as these two shots demonstrate.
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Four tugs in a row on a summer day in Duluth

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In the old days, I took pictures of the front end of boats. But I am slowing down in my old age and are now happy to get the back ends. So here are the back ends of a flotilla of all the tugs from Heritage Marine, out to get their picture taken (from the front, mostly). In the background, at right, notice the very red, or orange, HHL Amur discharging wind turbines pieces at the Port Terminal. Above, left to right, the Nels J., Helen H. Nancy J. and the Edward H.
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Above, left to right, the Helen H., Nels J., Nancy J. and Edward H.  Below, the Nancy J., Nels J. and the Helen H.
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First movement of the season

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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.
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Clear and cold

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The Whitefish Bay arrived Duluth at noon on Monday, January 5, 2015 to get fuel at Calumet before moving over to the Burlington Northern to load iron ore pellets. The North Carolina was waiting at the bridge for the Whitefish Bay to arrived before she went out into the lake.

Tug Nickelena brings Ro-Ro barge to Duluth

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Ro-Ro being Roll on Roll off, as in Roll that pressure vessel onto the barge,  take it to Duluth and Roll it Off. Here the Nickelena is moving the barge up to the back of the slip at the Port Terminal, where the cargo will come off the barge.
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Below is a video of the Ro-Ro arrival this morning that I took off my webcam page

Arkansas gets to work quickly

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The tug Arkansas arrived here on October 17th, 2014.  Two days later, Carole Lent got a nice shot of her helping the Orla move through the Duluth harbor on the 19th. The Orla picked up a cargo of wheat at CHS in Superior.

Tug Missouri leaves town with 2 tugs in tow

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The Great Lakes Towing tug Missouri brought the tugs Indiana and Arkansas into port yesterday to replace the tugs North Dakota and Kentucky. Today (October 18, 2014), she departed with the Kentucky and the North Dakota, two tugs that take with them a lot of harbor history guiding salt water ships as well as thousand footers around the port and  breaking ice in the harbor for all who needed a clear path.
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New tugs for old tugs

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We started the day (Friday, October 17, 2014) with 4 Great Lakes Towing tugs, the Minnesota, Kentucky, North Carolina and North Dakota tied up at  their dock in Duluth. By noon, the tugs Indiana and Arkansas  had joined the lineup replacing the Kentucky and North Dakota. Above, the Indiana (2nd from left) and Arkansas (third from left) had joined the lineup.
That’s the Kentucky still tied up on the left; she will be leaving and the North Carolina is at the head of the line here. She will be staying along with the Minnesota. Below, the tug Missouri pulled the Arkansas and Indiana under the Lift Bridge this morning.
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Above, the Missouri (left) is still pulling the Arkansas and the Indiana while the North Dakota and Minnesota are behind them.
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Below, they break up while they get the new tugs tied up at the dock, one at a time. The Minnesota is bringing the Indiana in first.
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New tugs for the port.

The Kentucky and the North Dakota will be replaced by the Arkansas and Indiana. They should be here between 10 am and 2 pm Friday (October 17, 2014).

Nancy J. is number 4

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Heritage Marine brought their 4th tug, the Nancy J., into Duluth on September 18, 2014, finishing a long trip that started in Texas. DSN ace photographer Holly took these pictures while Heritage Marine owner Mike Ojard filled in our ace reporter with all the details.
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Three boats at the end of the day

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The Heloise came in from the anchorage at 6:30 in the evening of July 30, 2014. Right behind her, fishing boats were going home for the day while the tug Kentucky gave an assist to the Heloise as she made her way over to CHS 1 to load grain.

Defiance pushes an Ashtabula full of coke breeze into Duluth

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The tug Defiance pushed the barge Ashtabula into the Duluth harbor on Friday, July 18, 2014. She is bringing in coke breeze to discharge at Hallett #8 in Superior. When that is done, she will cross the St. Louis River and load iron nuggets at the Hallett #5 dock in Duluth.
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Another try for the Presque Isle

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First, the Heritage Marine tug Helen H. broke up the ice to clear a path for the Presque Isle to make another attempt to start her season, going to Two Harbors to load iron ore pellets. They then circled around to the stern of the large tug barge to make sure there were no problems. Helen H. then returned to her dock in Superior. The Presque Isle was the first large boat to depart the port since the Mesabi Miner left for Taconite Harbor on March 27th.
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Take a ride on the Nels J.

Callaway home for the winter

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Two Heritage Marine tugs helped the Cason J. Callaway tie up at the Port Terminal for the winter this morning (January 15, 2014). Here the Helen H. is clearing ice along the dock. I took the picture from the Nels J., also assisting the Callaway. Earlier (below), Heritage Tug owner Mike Ojard (in the boat, works with Bob Hom, on shore, as they were getting the tug off their dock in Superior.
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Below, Captain Mike Ojard runs the Helen H. along the edge of the dock, clearing ice so the Callaway can tie up close to the dock.
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The goal is to get the Callaway as close to the dock as possible. Above, the Helen H. does her part while we (the Nels J.) do the same at the bow of the Callaway.
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Good-byes all around

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Launched earlier this year, the Canadian flagged Baie Comeau made 7 trips to the Twin Ports this season, discharging grain on one trip and loading coal 3 times. She departed today (January 9,  2014) with her 3rd cargo of iron ore pellets. Two Heritage Marine tugs, the Helen H. above, and the Nels J. below cleared a path through the ice on her departure.
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American Century gets help from Kentucky

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She is about to make the turn toward the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge on her way out to Lake Superior with a cargo of iron ore pellets loaded at the CN in West Duluth. More on the American Century.
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Icy cold in Duluth

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December 9, 2013: winter in Duluth began early and hard. Ice and cold have brought the tugs out early to keep traffic moving. This morning, the Arthur M. Anderson received help from the Nels J., below, getting close to the Calumet Fuel Dock at the Port Terminal in Duluth.
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The tug Nels J. approaches the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge

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… on Saturday morning, December 7, 2013.

Raba arrives with assist from North Dakota

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The Polish owned and Liberian flagged Raba arrived here on Sunday afternoon, October 6, 2013. On this, her first trip to Duluth Superior, she will be loading grain at CHS in Superior.

Ryerson moves to a new home in Duluth

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The Edward L. Ryerson was moved this morning from her berth at Fraser Shipyards by two Heritage Marine tugs, the Nels J. on her stern and the Helen H. on the bow. Below, they are moving under the Blatnik Bridge and out of Howard’s Pocket. At the far right is the John J. Boland, still residing at the shipyard.
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Above and below, the Helen H. is handling the difficult job of maneuvering the boat between two bridge supports
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They pulled the Ryerson from her slip at Fraser, stern first. Here they are starting to turn her around so they can bring her into her new home bow first.
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From Google Earth, we see the short route taken. The tugs pulled the Ryerson away from her slip at Fraser Shipyards, under the Blatnik Bridge, around CHS and into the CHS slip, at the Barko Hydraulics, just across from CHS. 
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Above, we are looking from behind the CHS elevator. Below, the tugs are bringing her into the slip bow first. The CHS towers are now on the right.
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Above, the Ryerson bow is secure to the dock and the lines from the Helen H.  have been taken up. At the stern of the boat, the Nels J. is still connected and is pulling the stern of the Ryerson toward the Barko Hydraulics dock, her new home.
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Below, the Helen H. is now gently helping to move the whole boat next to the dock while the Nels J. is still pulling the Ryerson toward her new dock.
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The Nels J., no longer connected by rope to the Ryerson, moves to the side to help the Helen H. move the boat closer to her dock, where line handlers on the other side will tie her securely to the dock.
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Almost done! While the Helen H. pulls away and prepares to go home, the Nels J. is still providing a little push to the Ryerson.
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Mission accomplished; time to go home; I am exhausted
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Watch tug Wilfred M. Cohen in Duluth

Click here for more info on the Wilfred M. Cohen

Edwin H. Gott, last to come in for the winter

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Nice for the boats; winter arrived here within minutes of the Heritage Marine tug Nels J making sure the last boat to come in, the Edwin H. Gott, was secure against the dock at the Port Terminal on Wednesday morning, January 18, 2012. The temperature plunged, down to -31 at my home, and a big snow storm, the largest we have had yet, at least ¾ of an inch, maybe even 1/8 more. The Alder was close by but was not needed, so she went back to her dock, probably not moving from there until March 7th or so.

Medemborg arrives for bentonite

Medemborg makes her 10th trip to Duluth to load bentonite
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The Medemborg arrived Duluth on Friday afternoon, October 14, 2011. This is her 10th visit to the Twin Ports since she was built in 1997, her first visit this season. She was here twice last year. She will be loading bentonite on this trip; in past trips, she has loaded beet pulp pellets and other grains. She was assisted by the Heritage Marine tug Nels J.  seen below on her way to the Medemborg just after the ship came under the Lift Bridge; above, she has moved closer.
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I caught the Medemborg’s whistle as she came in.

Heritage Marine buys tug #3

Heritage Marine has been working with 2 tugs in the Duluth Superior port, the Nels J. and the Edward H. Mike Ojard has just purchased tug number 3. She will be called the Helen H. See notes from the trip to the Twin Ports below, thanks to crew member Paul von Goertz.
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The picture above taken on Lake Superior on the way to Duluth. They arrived Duluth on Sunday morning, August 21st, 2011 going under the Aerial Lift Bridge at 3:50 am. The new tug will be named: Helen H.
heritagemarphotoNotes from the trip to Duluth: Mike bought the tug in Galveston, TX, then he hired a pilot to run it from Galveston to New Orleans and then to Baton Rouge. He and son Pat went along. From Baton Rouge the boat was made part of a barge tow and brought up the Mississippi and then the Illinois Waterway as far as Peru, IL. There the boat’s stern was lifted by a barge to reduce it’s draft and towed to Lemont, IL. Here the boat was ballasted down to get under a railroad bridge, which it just cleared by inches. As luck would have it, a train went over the bridge as the boat went under. When inches count, we did not need a train to go over! To what degree did the bridge bend under the strain of the train? From Lemont the boat was again towed north, this time to S. Chicago where we once again took over the boat and replaced everything that was removed from the pilot house in order to clear the Lemont Bridge. We left S. Chicago about noon on Wed. and arrived in Duluth Sunday 3:50 AM. We laid over one night at Lime Island at the southern tip of the St. Mary’s so we could run the river in daylight. We also stopped for a couple of hours in Houghton to take on another 1500 gallons of fuel.
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After 3 weeks at anchor off the Duluth piers…

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The Nogat finally came into port to load grain on Sunday afternoon, May 8, 2011. Above and below, she is assisted by the tug North Dakota as she made her way to the Duluth Storage (formerly Cargill)
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Munson last boat to arrive for Winter

The John G. Munson came into port this morning (January 19, 2011). She is the last of 10 boats that will spend the winter in the Duluth Superior port. She was assisted by the Heritage Marine tug Nels J. The tug is helping the Munson get close to the dock after which the boat will slowly move forward, kicking the ice along the dock out as the boat moves along the dock until she is alongside and tied up just south of the Murphy Fuel Terminal.

Ice is nice

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On Monday, the American Century came into Duluth with a boat load of ice. The salt water ship Orsula can be seen at anchor waiting to come in to load wheat for Italy. On Tuesday she was in and loading wheat at CHS1 in Superior (just below). Ice is the news of the day as you can see in both pictures. Where there is ice, you will often find the Nels J. out breaking the ice. I was on the Orsula working with a production company from the twin cities that was up here to find out what happens in the port. We sent some of them out on the Nels J. and below, we came back to pick them up as the big tug was pulling up to her dock in Superior. Yes, it was cold!!
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Duluth Storage, formerly Cargill, is now loading the Federal Pioneer

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She is seen above just after coming under the Lift Bridge, around 1 pm Friday afternoon, October 15, 2010. Above, the tug Kentucky is helping the ship (Federal Pioneer) turn around before backing into the slip at Duluth Storage (formerly Cargill), alongside the grain terminal at the right of the picture.

Olympic Melody, one of many salt water ships coming to Duluth

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The Olympic Melody came into the Duluth harbor on September 29th, 2010 with the aid of two Great Lakes Towing tugs, the Kentucky on the stern and the Minnesota, just disappearing around the bow of the ship. She loaded grain at the CHS terminal in Superior.

The end is near ………

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At 11:00 this morning (January 9, 2010) the Great Lakes tug North Carolina moved away from her moorings and headed down the harbor to await the arrival of the James R. Barker. The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge is up, awaiting the big 1,000 footer’s arrival. (more coming)
The Barker was here to pick up 58,000 tons of coal at Midwest Energy Resources to take to Marquette, Michigan. She is expected back here on Tuesday to go into winter layup at Midwest Energy.
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With the Barker slowly making her way to the Murphy Fuel Dock (at right), the North Carolina doubled back to take a pass along the dock while the John G. Munson patiently watched the Saturday morning activity.
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The North Carolina helps the American Integrity

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The American Integrity came into port this afternoon to go over to Midwest Energy Resources in Superior to get another load of coal. In the background, you see the John G. Munson at her dock at the Port Authority for winter layup. She came in on December 26th. You see the Great Lakes tug North Carolina just off the bow of the Integrity. While the Integrity stopped at Murphy Fuel, the North Carolina went just beyond the Munson in the area known as the turning basin. That’s where the American Integrity would go next, making a quarter turn so she could back up to the dock at Midwest Energy. That is how most of the big boats go to Midwest. They are then facing in the right direction when it is time to leave. The tug broke up the ice in the turning basin and then cleared the track to Midwest and did some ice breaking close by the Midwest dock.

Heritage Marine gets a second tug

Heritage Marine bought a second tug for their fleet. Called the Ares, Heritage Marine owner Mike Ojard brought her to Duluth on Tuesday, October 27. 2009. She had been used as a supply tug for oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Heritage owner Mike Ojard had the tug’s hull reinforced in New Orleans to increase her ice breaking capability up here. A bow thruster was also added to the vessel. She was then convoyed up the Mississippi River and into the Illinois River and up to Lemont, Illinois as a part of a tug barge combination. Ojard took it from there, bringing her up Lake Michigan and across Lake Superior to Duluth. Two years ago, Ojard purchased the tug Forney, brought it up here and renamed her Edward H. after his father, who was the chief engineer on the Edna G.

Mauthe returns as the Pathfinder

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The J. L. Mauthe was built at River Rouge, Michigan in 1953. After a long and steady career, she entered layup at Fraser Shipyards in Superior in 1993. On the last day of 1996, she was towed from Fraser to the Bay Shipbuilding Company to be converted into a barge called the Pathfinder. At about the same time, Interlake Steamship also built the tug Dorothy Ann. They entered Great Lakes Service in 1999 as the barge/tug combination Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder. They arrived in Duluth to load coal last night (October 21, 2009), their first trip here as a tug barge combination. Captain Gary Schmidt and First Mate Jeremy Mock made sure the Pathfinder and Dorothy Ann had a safe passage through the wind, the rain, the snow and the ice last night.
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The tug Undaunted pushed the barge Pere Marquette 41 through the Duluth ship canal and out into Lake Superior today (September 14, 2009).

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Cargo? Scrap metal from Azcon Corporation. This was the 5th trip to the Twin Ports for the tug Undaunted and barge Pere Marquette this year. On the first trip, she loaded taconite rock at the Hallett Dock. The next 3 trips, she loaded scrap at the Hallet Dock and this trip as above. It is hard to believe that the barge started life in 1941 as a ferry, considered by many to be the most luxurious ferry ever built. She had other names in between then and now.

Pere Marquette taking scrap out

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In late May, the barge Pere Marquette 41 arrived at the Hallett Dock to load a cargo of taconite rock. It was the first trip to the Twin Ports for either the barge or its tug, Undaunted. On Tuesday, they were back, and going to the Hallett Dock, but this time, they loaded scrap steel to take to Algoma Steel at the other end of Lake Superior. It will be recycled into their blast furnaces and made into steel again. The barge left on Wednesday morning (pictured). Photo taken on July 15, 2009
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 07-16-2009

Erika Kobasic brings large piece of cargo

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Usually, high pressure containers that come here for oil and gasification projects were built in Japan and brought in on a heavy lift ship. On Tuesday afternoon, one arrived on a barge pulled by the tug Erika Kobasic. It was built in Bellevue, Ohio, taken by truck to Sandusky, put on the barge and brought to Duluth. The vessel was pulled off the barge at the Port Terminal on Tuesday afternoon. Notice in the picture the container is sitting in a metal frame with lots of wheels on it. A special tractor, not pictured, was brought to Duluth to pull the piece very slowly off the barge. As soon as it was off, the tug Erika Kobasic departed for the next job. From here the high pressure container will go by train or truck to Cambridge where it will be split open for more work, put back together and then taken by either truck or train to Beula, North Dakota where a company called Dakota Gasification will use it in their plant. And you thought your job was complicated. Photo taken on June 30, 2009
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 07-01-2009

A new (to the port) vessel came into port today (June 30, 2009)

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The tug Erika Kobasic brought a high pressure vessel into port today. It was loaded in Sandusky and will eventually be taken to Beulah, North Dakota. It was discharged at the Port Terminal today (June 30, 2009). For more pictures, click here: http://www.lswci.com/erikakobasic2009.html

Ostrander and Integrity arrive Duluth

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The tug G. L. Ostrander pushed the barge Integrity through a rainy, even cold, Duluth ship canal on Saturday morning (pictured). One family and a photographer were the only people in sight. More should be there this afternoon when the same combination departs. It has replaced the Alpena as the Lafarge vessel to deliver cement to the Twin Ports. The Alpena is in temporary dry dock in Alpena, Michigan, waiting one supposes for the economy, particularly the construction industry, to improve. The port does have a lot of integrity today. Along with the barge Integrity, the American Integrity will be here to load coal. Photo taken on June 27, 2009
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 06-28-2009

Party for Pere Marquette 41-Undaunted

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The barge Pere Marquette 41 arrived at the Hallett Dock on Thursday afternoon (above) ready to load a cargo of taconite rock, also called Mesabi hard rock by project sponsor Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at UMD. A large group of reporters, port officials, and project members were at the dock to greet the vessel when it arrived. It was a celebration heralding a potential new business venture, using taconite rock from the Iron Range as road bed aggregate, in this case, in Chicago. Dock-side celebrations have been few and far between with diminished boat traffic and increased security measures. It was good for the port to pay attention to the tug and barge and good for the region that we were watching what many hope will be a new cargo going through the Twin Ports. Several people pointed out that more jobs was the bottom line in the project. Photo taken on May 29, 2009
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 05-30-2009

Big day at the Hallett Dock #5

pm20090529_6181The tug Undaunted pulled her barge, the Pere Marquette 41, into the Hallett Dock #5 in West Duluth on Thursday afternoon, May 28th. Both were making their first trip on Lake Superior and they are here to pick up the first cargo of taconite rock to be taken from Duluth.
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Reporters, cameras and project members all awaited the vessel as she backed into the dock.
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It is a project developed at the UMD Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) that is finding new ways to use taconite ore from the Iron Range. This rock has a very low level of iron content in it and would not be used to make pellets but it is an ideal material to serve as aggregate in making road surfaces. This rock is going to Chicago for a test run.
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Mike McCoshen, Hallett Dock President, is interviewed about the project
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Above, Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune interviews Ron Johnson from the Duluth Seaway Port Authority
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The taconite pile about to be loaded is seen just behind an anxious audience. Behind the pile, the ship loader (blue) is slowly moving into position.
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pm20090529_6246There were two front-end loaders picking up the taconite rock and dropping it in the hopper that fed the conveyor belt up to the barge. Above, foreground, you see one of them picking up a load at the pile while the other one, top right, is about to dump the rock into the hopper.Taconite is moving up the ship loader conveyor and into the vessel’s cargo hold. The hard work begins and for the rest of us, it is time to go home.
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Pere Marquette and Undaunted arrive Duluth

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The Pere Marquette 41 and tug Undaunted arrived in Duluth late this afternoon (above). They are here to load taconite rock that will be taken to Chicago to be used as a surface treatment on roads. It may also be used in the manufacture of cement. This is an entirely new use for taconite taken directly out of the ground. Usually, we receive iron ore pellets from the Iron Range that have been processed in large ball mills that take ground-up taconite and combine it with other ingredients including limestone and turn it into pellets that eventually get fed to giant blast furnaces in steel mills such as US Steel in Gary.

G.L. Ostrander exits Duluth with Integrity

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On Sunday morning, the tug G.L. Ostrander arrived in Duluth pushing the barge Integrity that was loaded with a cargo of cement. On Monday afternoon, the pair departed the Twin Ports by way of a very windy Duluth ship canal (above). There was a line for the coal dock on Monday that will probably last through today. Both the Canadian Progress and Canadian Olympic were at anchor waiting on the Paul R. Tregurtha on Monday. Both likely came in, loaded coal and departed by first light today. That left the coal dock for the Indiana Harbor unless the American Mariner, expected last night with limestone, discharged that cargo and got over to the coal dock first.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 05-26-2009

Undaunted brings the Pere Marquette to Duluth

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Thanks to Frank Frisk for the picture above, taken on the St. Clair River.

I don’t know which is more interesting; the history of the barge Pere Marquette and tug Undaunted, or the trip they are making to Duluth on Thursday, May 28th. I refer you to the article by  Brian Ferguson  on the Boatnerd for the long and illustrious story. You will learn in the article that "… the Marquette has hauled anything practically everywhere." That pretty much covers it but the details are fascinating.
   On this trip, the everywhere is the Hallett Dock in West Duluth. The anything is taconite rock. The destination is Chicago, but not to a steel mill. This taconite will be used as a road surface. Some of the shipment will also go to a Chicago area cement and concrete manufacturer because the silica and iron ore in taconite are major ingredients in the manufacturing of Portland cement. I refer you to a press release from Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of  Minnesota at Duluth, reprinted below.

Iron Range to ship new product to Chicago via tug/barge

DULUTH, Minn. – Taconite rock, found in overabundance on Minnesota’s Iron Range, makes an extremely durable and high-performing aggregate, according to research at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI). It has been used extensively in the northland, but this week it will be transported from Duluth to Chicago via the Great Lakes, testing its “shipability” and potential as a new, readily available aggregate product for other areas.

   Chicago’s local aggregate sources are primarily limestone-based, a softer rock than taconite. Iron Range aggregate could meet their needs for a tougher surface treatment on roads. That could mean longer lasting roads for the greater Chicago area, less road construction and less overall cost. NRRI’s research also shows that hard taconite rock has excellent friction characteristics for safer driving conditions when applied to the road surface. Some of the shipment will also go to a Chicago area cement and concrete manufacturer because the silica and iron ore in taconite are major ingredients in the manufacturing of Portland cement.
   Millions of tons of Iron Range taconite rock are available in northern Minnesota, without the need to create or expand gravel quarries in busy urban areas where aggregate is needed.
   “The logistics of moving the aggregate in a cost effective way has been the tough part,” said NRRI geologist Larry Zanko, principal investigator on the project. “But the tug and barge system offers promise for efficient transportation.”
   The vintage barge Pere Marquette 41 and tug Undaunted have been in operation on the Great Lakes since 1997, but this is her first trip on Lake Superior. The barge can carry 5,000 net tons of dry bulk or 240,000 cubic feet of cargo. Depending on weather, it will take four to five days to move the 5,000 tons of aggregate rock to Chicago.
   “Not a single taconite pellet is being produced right now on the Iron Range,” said Zanko. “This highlights the importance of tapping into taconite rock as a more durable, more sustainable, and more energy efficient alternative to lesser-quality crushed stone, especially as the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs serious upgrading.”
   Many port businesses are excited about the possibilities in a new product from the Iron Range. Hallett Dock Company hopes to attract customers that can take advantage of the movement by bringing their bulk products to Duluth on the up-bound trip, according to Hallett Dock President Mike McCoshen.
   “We’re unique because we’re not product-specific like the coal docks, ore docks or grain elevators,” said McCoshen. “We’re more of a bulk commodities boutique, and can ship 500,000 tons to 5,000 tons, like this project. We hope there is potential for the long-term on this one.”
   The Duluth Seaway Port Authority anticipates that, if demand for taconite aggregate grows, it could eventually be carried on larger vessels at an even lower cost per ton.    “This shipment of taconite aggregate is a great example of how the cost and fuel efficiencies of waterborne transportation can open up new, niche markets around the Great Lakes,” noted Ron Johnson, the Port Authorities’ trade development director.
   Earlier this month, the Lake Carriers’ Association reported that Great Lakes iron ore shipments are down 70 percent from last year at this time because of the economic downturn. A new potential product from the Iron Range is a welcome bit of good news.
   “For those of us in the shipping business, this is a ray of sunshine in a cloudy sky,” said Pere Marquette Operations Manager Chuck Leonard.
   Laurentian Aggregate of Duluth worked closely with NRRI and was instrumental in facilitating this shipment. Funding for NRRI’s aggregate research is provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Economic Development Administration), Iron Range Resources, Blandin Foundation, Minnesota Power, Minnesota Technology, Inc., and the University of Minnesota Permanent Trust Fund.
   The mission of NRRI is to foster the economic development of Minnesota’s natural resources in an environmentally sound manner to promote private sector employment. —end—

G.L. Ostrander enters Duluth with Integrity

GLOstranderbargeIntegrity20090524_6012
For many years, the Alpena has been used by Lafarge North America to bring cement to the Twin Ports, averaging about 15 trips a year. It has not been back since its first trip here this season at the end of March. Shortly after that, it was placed in temporary layup. On Sunday, the tug G.L. Ostrander arrived in Duluth with the barge Integrity loaded with cement (above). It is the first cement delivery from Lafarge since that last trip by the Alpena. The tug barge combination is owned and operated by Lafarge. The Integrity was built in 1996 and was here twice that year and twice in 2006. This is its 5th trip to the Twin Ports. Tug/barge combinations are less expensive to operate than Great Lakes freighters due in part to lower manpower requirements. That may be one reason why Lafarge switched vessels in a year when the construction industry is not doing well. Photo taken on May 24, 2009
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 05-25-2009