It's a big Memorial Day weekend for ship watchers along the North Shore with a bevy of vessel arrivals between Silver Bay and Superior, from Duluth to Two Harbors — evidence of an upturn in Great Lakes shipping traffic.
The weekend also features a major barge transfer of cargoes landing in Duluth bound for the refinery in Superior.
Ship-watching enthusiasts will find a sea of opportunity, while lucky wanderers will encounter heavy vessel traffic Monday with five ships expected to sail into Duluth, according to the local vessel traffic website Harbor Lookout.
The busy weekend was heralded by Paul R. Tregurtha's arrival into Duluth to load taconite iron ore pellets Friday.
“It’s been a busy month, not only at the facility we operate, but throughout the entire harbor, and that’s great to see,” said Jonathan Lamb, president of Duluth Cargo Connect, the joint venture between the Port Authority and its cargo handler Lake Superior Warehousing Co. “The ship enthusiasts enjoy the spectacle, and our region thrives on the business.”
Among the scheduled arrivals for this weekend, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority noted Saturday’s visiting M/V Nunalik — sailing to Duluth from Spain with heavy-lift cargoes destined for Superior’s Husky Refinery.
Nunalik will be the fourth foreign ship to call on the port’s general cargo terminal since May 13. It was scheduled to arrive Saturday around suppertime.
The Port Authority described the transfer process for the refinery parts as involving “a combination of moves at the Clure Public Marine Terminal, with Duluth Cargo Connect unloading the Nunalik and hoisting the stoutest cargoes onto a barge for transport across the harbor.”
The News Tribune also spoke to Sara Summers-Luedtke, park ranger and director of the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center.
She reported that so far in May 68 vessels have called on the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, compared to 65 during the same month last year in what ended up being a considerably down pandemic year for shipping in 2020. In Duluth, there have been 46 arrivals in the month through Thursday, compared to 44 last May.
“We’re noticing a little bit of an increase in vessels overall,” Summers-Luedtke said. “We’re also noticing a lot more people this spring than we saw last spring coming to watch the vessels and enjoy Canal Park.”
The maritime center doesn’t expect to open again until later this summer, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the facility, is extending services beyond its interior.
It’ll have park rangers staffed outside the building this weekend, handing out brochures and answering questions.
“It’ll be nice for us to be out there and continuing to interact with visitors after we’ve been away for so long,” Summers-Luedtke said. “A lot of people come here first when they visit Duluth. We’ll be able to give them the grand tour of Canal Park.”
Beginning this weekend, the maritime center will operate an outdoor gift shop outside its doors, where there will also be a whiteboard updating vessel arrivals.
“We’re expecting a big holiday weekend,” Summers-Luedtke said, before nodding to the foreign traffic crossing the Atlantic Ocean on its way to docking in Duluth. “It looks like we’re going to get a lot of saltie traffic.”