First came the engine department and kitchen crews reporting for duty about 10 days ago. A few days later came the conveyor and deck crews.
Now, it's time for the 2016-17 Great Lakes shipping campaign to get underway.
The first two of several ships wintering in the Twin Ports will leave port Tuesday morning, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority said in a news release Monday.
The Edwin H. Gott was scheduled to depart under the Aerial Lift Bridge around 3:30-4 a.m.
The Gott will be followed by another of Canadian National Railway's Duluth-based Great Lakes Fleet - the Philip R. Clarke. The Clarke is scheduled to leave midmorning.
Both ships are headed to Two Harbors to take on loads of iron ore before heading east across Lake Superior to get in line at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The Soo Locks open Friday.
Additionally, the Paul R. Tregurtha, which spent the winter in layup at Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior, will take on a load of coal there Thursday before it heads out that evening bound for a power plant in Michigan.
The Clarke and Gott are making deliveries to steel mills on the lower Great Lakes.
Two additional vessels that wintered in port, the Kaye E. Barker and American Century, are scheduled to depart later in the month.
It looks as if the Twin Ports will welcome its first inbound lakers this weekend, the Port Authority said in its news release, with the anticipated arrivals of the Stewart J. Cort and the Burns Harbor on Saturday.
All of the aforementioned boats are U.S.-flagged lakers. The first Canadian laker should arrive sometime next week, the Port Authority said. It's too soon to tell with any certainty when the port's first saltie will arrive, as it must cross the Atlantic Ocean and transit the full length of the Great Lakes Seaway.
Farther east, the Welland Canal between lakes Ontario and Erie opened Monday. The occasion marked the start of the 58th navigation season in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System and included a ceremony in Ontario.
"The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System continues to be an environmentally sustainable, vital route for commerce in the global supply chain," said Betty Sutton, administrator of the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., in a news release. "The Great Lakes region, North America's 'Opportunity Belt,' is a thriving and influential destination and the seaway system connects this region to the world."