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Shipping season ends on the Great Lakes

The Cason J. Callaway was the first of three last ships expected to enter the Port of Duluth-Superior on Wednesday as the closing of the Soo Locks at midnight marks the official end to the Great Lakes shipping season.

The Callaway was preparing to go into dock for layup at 10 a.m., said Mike Ojard, owner of Heritage Marine. His tugs have been breaking ice in the harbor for most of the late season and escorting ships that have come and gone through several weeks of subzero temperatures this winter.

The Mesabi Miner was expected for layup Wednesday evening and the Kaye E. Barker early today after a run to Silver Bay for iron ore pellets. The Presque Isle came in Tuesday.

Ten Great Lakes freighters will be wintering in the Twin Ports this year, including two that didn't go out for the past shipping season.

The shipping end means things ramp up for the hundreds of engineers, welders, pipefitters, mechanics, electricians and others who will spend the next eight weeks doing heavy-duty repair and maintenance work at places like the Fraser Shipyards in Superior. On average, $500,000 to $1 million of work is done on each ship during the offseason.

The locks are set to open March 25.