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Duluth-based ship anchored in Milwaukee after 7 crew members test positive for COVID-19

This is the first COVID-19 outbreak on a Lake Carriers' Association-enrolled vessel.

FILE: Presque Isle
The Presque Isle sits off Park Point in Duluth in July 2020. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A Duluth-based lake freighter is anchored in Milwaukee's harbor after seven crew members tested positive for COVID-19.

The Presque Isle, a 1,000-foot vessel, departed Duluth carrying iron ore on Sunday and arrived in Gary, Indiana, on Wednesday.

Upon arrival, a couple crew members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms so the entire crew was tested, said Eric Peace, director of operations and communications for Lake Carriers' Association, which represents 11 United States-based Great Lakes fleets.

Of the 22 people on the ship, seven tested positive. Two of those people were taken to the hospital in Indiana before the ship was diverted to Port Milwaukee, which is one of the LCA's designated COVID-19-response ports.

"Back in 2020, in March, LCA came up with plans for just this kind of scenario," Peace said. "So we had ports strategically located around the Great Lakes we made arrangements with, including lodging, transportation and even meals to be remotely delivered to members if they're quarantined."

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FILE: ships
Five iron ore boats were anchored in Lake Superior March 26, 2021, waiting to load in Two Harbors, Superior and Duluth. Shown (from left) are the Spruceglen, Edwin H. Gott, Presque Isle, American Spirit and Edgar B. Speer. (File / Adelle Whitefoot / News Tribune)

The ship remains anchored at Milwaukee's harbor. COVID-19-positive crew members are isolated from the others on the ship while they wait for a dock to open Monday, Peace said.

The plan is for the crew to debark the ship to quarantine and the ship will be cleaned. A new crew will eventually replace the quarantined crew.

"We're grateful for the port of Milwaukee, that we made these arrangements a year ago," Peace said. "We're happy that the response plan (is) in place and working effectively, very effectively actually."

Asked when the Presque Isle is expected to sail again, Peace said that will depend on how long it takes to gather the new crew.

This is the first COVID-19 outbreak on an LCA-enrolled vessel.

The Great Lakes shipping season began last week.

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