First saltie of season brings worldly crew to Twin PortsFor the 22-member crew of the Federal Hunter, the first “saltie” into the Duluth-Superior port this year, the weather on the Great Lakes wasn’t so inviting.
For the 22-member crew of the Federal Hunter, the first “saltie” into the Duluth-Superior port this year, the weather on the Great Lakes wasn’t so inviting.
All but two members of the crew hail from India, and many had never experienced the icy conditions until last month.
“It looks beautiful. The ice looks like heaven,” chief officer Debasish Dutta said of the cracked ice in the harbor, “but not so much when it’s on the deck.”
The Federal Hunter, based in Hong Kong, arrived in the Twin Ports just after midnight on Saturday, March 30, making it the earliest arrival by an ocean-going ship in the port’s history. Previously, the record was held by the India-flag Argosy on April 1, 1995.
The 655-foot Federal Hunter made its way to the CHS grain elevator in Superior from Germany, making a stop in Quebec along the way.
After nearly three days in port, the bulk freighter departed Monday evening with 15,000 metric tons of durum and spring wheat. The ship was scheduled to stop in Thunder Bay to top off its load before delivering the cargo to France and England.
The crew was recognized for setting the Twin Ports record during a ceremony Monday aboard the ship.Community members and maritime officials mingled with crew members while Indian hors d’oeuvres were served.
“Although we began shipping operations over two weeks ago domestically, the international season is kind of a hallmark because of its connections to international industries and its utilization of our water systems and the connection with our heartland farmers,” said Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
Captain Kahlil Zamindar of Mumbai, India, was all smiles during the event.
“It’s always been a pleasure to come to Duluth,” he said, noting that he had made the trip a few times previously. “We’re proud to break the record and we’re looking forward to the season ahead.”
Zamindar said he likes to get off the ship and shop around whenever the ship is docked. He has three children at home in India and likes to bring them souvenirs.
“They’re certainly not lagging behind in geography,” he joked.
Many of the crew members have passports or other forms of documentation that allow them to leave the ship while it is in port. The Seafarers Center, a hospitality ministry in Duluth, assists sailors while they are in the Twin Ports.
Chief engineer Ajit Menon brought his wife, Sabitha, and 5-year-old son, Vyshnav, on the trip. Family members occasionally have the opportunity to travel along on vacation.
“We’re on the ship for anywhere from four months to nine months at a time and we’re away from our families,” said Ajit, who is from southern India. “But sometimes we get to bring them on vacation.”
Sabitha said she was enjoying her time on the ship. While in the Twin Ports, she had some time to be a tourist, visiting downtown Duluth and the Great Lakes Aquarium and shopping at Target.
“It’s really nice,” she said of traveling with her family. “We can come on vacation, just for fun.”
Deck cadet Julien Landry is new to the ship. The 19-year-old Montreal resident is studying at the Quebec Maritime Institute in Rimouski, Quebec, and is serving an apprenticeship on the Federal Hunter. He’s also one of just two crew members not from India, the other being from Morocco.
“This is the first ship I’ve been on and the crew has been great,” he said. “I’ve been able to see how everything works. I learn something new every day.”
Landry must complete 12 months aboard a ship as part of his four-year officer training program. He said he is enjoying the work and having the opportunity to travel across the world, although it means he spends a long time away from home.
“I get to go home in about two months,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing my family again. I’ve been away studying for a long time.”
Local port officials made sure the crew members won’t soon forget their visit to the Twin Ports or the record they set. Ojard presented them with a calendar and a book about the history of the ports that will remain onboard the ship.
“Hopefully it will give everyone a great history of the Twin Ports,” he said. “We’ll have a little test when you return.”