ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Twin Ports shipping season's first saltie loading wheat for Italian pasta

The Federal Elbe officially became the season's first saltie to arrive in the Twin Ports when it passed beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The Federal Elbe
A crewman walks along the starboard side of the Federal Elbe as it takes on a load of wheat at the CHS terminal in Superior on Wednesday afternoon. The ship is the first saltie to arrive in the Twin Ports this year. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

The Federal Elbe officially became the season's first saltie to arrive in the Twin Ports when it passed beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Its arrival was determined in no small part by the changing demands of international commerce. When the ship left Italy in March, it was headed for South America. A change in orders reached the ship in the Atlantic, and the ship altered course.

"It's just coincidence that we are here," Capt. Darius Malinowski said Wednesday after a First Ship Ceremony held in his ship's pilot house.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority hosted the ceremony as the ship took on part of a cargo of nearly 23,700 short tons of durum wheat at the CHS terminal in Superior. The wheat is bound for Italy, where it will be made into high-quality pasta.

Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director Adolph Ojard noted that a China-built and Cyprus-flagged ship -- operated by a Canadian firm, a captain from Poland, crew members from the Philippines, and carrying Midwest wheat to Italy -- illustrates how international trade has become. The amount of wheat the 656-foot-long Federal Elbe is leaving Superior with represents the harvest of 26,000 acres, Ojard said.

ADVERTISEMENT

On average, about 3 million tons of grain is shipped annually from the Twin Ports. That number was down to 2 million tons last year.

"We hope to equal or exceed last year's total of grain" this year, Ojard said.

He also expects to see a modest increase in tonnage of coal shipped, and significant increases in the tonnage of wind turbine components, iron ore and limestone.

"We're looking for a strong recovery, but we won't be at the levels of 2008," Ojard said. "It will take several years before we see those levels again."

Wednesday's welcoming ceremony was a lighthearted affair. Ojard and Superior Mayor Dave Ross bantered about whether Duluth or Superior should get top billing. Former Minnesota state Rep. Mike Jaros, representing the Twin Ports Ministry of Seafarers, greeted Malinowski in Polish with a traditional Polish greeting of "Fortune, health and happiness." And Malinowski spoke briefly via phone with Lindsey Loften of North Branch, Minn., who won this year's First Ship Contest by guessing that the year's first saltie would pass beneath the Lift Bridge at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday -- just 10 seconds off of the actual time of 6:11.50 a.m.

The Federal Elbe arrived off Duluth on Monday morning and anchored in the lake awaiting the departure of the Canadian laker J.W. Shelley from CHS. The Federal Elbe will load its cargo over 24 hours and depart for Italy. It will take 18 days to reach Italy, "weather permitting," Malinowski said.

Spring in the North Atlantic can include nearly 40-foot waves and 60-knot winds.

"We don't want to meet the worst weather," Malinowksi said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet despite modern weather reporting and forecasting, ships and their crews often have to deal with foul weather. The Federal Elbe dealt with four low-pressure areas on its trip across the Atlantic to the St. Lawrence.

"We were doing five knots at one point," Malinowski said, and the passage took 24 hours more than normal.

The Northland spring also dealt Malinowski -- who first sailed on the Great Lakes in 1995 -- an unexpected blow.

"I was hoping to go skiing today," he said, looking up the river toward Spirit Mountain. "But no snow."

Ship captain
Darius Malinowski, captain of the Federal Elbe, gestures on the ship's pilot house during Wednesday's ceremony marking the ship's arrival in the Twin Ports. The ship is the first saltie of the year to transit the full Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system to arrive in the Twin Ports. Watching Malinowski is Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

What To Read Next
Bankruptcy information gathered from cases filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Duluth.
Recently sold properties from St. Louis County.
Bankruptcy information gathered from cases filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Duluth.
Recently sold properties from St. Louis County.