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Twin Ports delegation greets season's first saltie

Duluth greeted its first oceangoing vessel of the season Sunday, as the Dutch-flagged Albanyborg passed beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge at 7:41 p.m. In a ceremony Monday afternoon to mark the event, local dignitaries gathered on the ship's bridge,...

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The first saltie of the 2016 season, the AlbanyborgThe first saltie of the 2016 season, the Albanyborg, prepares to enter the Duluth Ship Canal Sunday evening as waves crash along the Canal Park shoreline. The ship passed beneath the Aerial Bridge about 7:40 p.m. and then made its way to the Clure Public Marine Terminal to dock overnight. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com
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Duluth greeted its first oceangoing vessel of the season Sunday, as the Dutch-flagged Albanyborg passed beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge at 7:41 p.m.

In a ceremony Monday afternoon to mark the event, local dignitaries gathered on the ship's bridge, where they presented its captain, Igor Bunenkov, with gifts.

Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, welcomed the vessel, praising Bunenkov and his crew for piloting the first oceangoing vessel of the season to enter the St. Lawrence Seaway as well as the first to arrive in the Twin Ports. The 472-foot-long Albanyborg began its journey through the seaway on March 23.

"I'm not sure that we can promise this type of reception every time you come here," Coda joked.

The ship brought wind turbine components from Emden, Germany, to Port Colborne, Ontario. After making the delivery, the Albanyborg continued westward to Duluth to receive a load of grain.

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Bunenkov reported smooth sailing on the Great Lakes and sparse ice - not that more wintry conditions would have stopped the Albanyborg.

"This vessel is ice class A1. She is small, but she is like an icebreaker," Bunenkov said.

He said the Albanyborg encountered about four days of challenging weather during its two-week crossing of the Atlantic, but added that such conditions are to be expected at this time of year.

The ship is operated by a multi-national team. Bunenkov hails from Ukraine. One of his officers is Vietnamese. And the ship draws its 12-man crew from the Philippines.

"The flag is the only thing on this vessel that is Dutch," joked Bunenkov, noting as well that the ship was built in China.

Adele Yorde, public relations director for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, spoke to the significance of the Albanyborg's arrival, telling Bunenkov: "This is the start of international commerce for the Twin Ports. We've had our lakers - our freighters that are on the Great Lakes - running for a couple of weeks, but you really signal the start of global commerce."

Yorde said the Port Authority values its relationship with the fleet of which the Albanyborg is a member.

"We have a long-standing relationship in this port with Royal Wagenborg. You'll see a lot of these red and gray vessels coming to get grain and bringing in wind turbine components. We really appreciate the fact that they've made a commitment to the Great Lakes/Seaway sailing," she said.

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In response, Bunenkov said: "On behalf of my crew and our company, thank you very much. We are the first vessel this year but not the last."

Thanks in part to a mild spring and an early opening of the seaway, the Albanyborg arrived on the early side, historically. Yorde noted that the earliest recorded arrival of a saltie in Duluth was March 30, and the slowest start to oceangoing traffic was May 7.

On Monday, the Albanyborg was fitted with bulkheads and inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard. Bunenkov expected to begin loading spring wheat at the CHS terminal in Superior on Tuesday and then set out out by Wednesday on a three-week journey to Italy.

Although the vessel can carry up 15,000 metric tons of grain, Bunenkov said it would load only to two-thirds its capacity, due to draft limitations en route.

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Albany Borg Captain Igor Bunenkov smiles as he is welcomed to the Duluth port by Vanta Coda, Executive Director of the Seaway Port Authority at a ceremony held aboard the Albany Borg Monday afternoon. The Albany Borg was the first saltie to e enter the port for 2016. Photo by Dave Ballard for the News Tribune

Related Topics: SHIPPINGLAKE SUPERIOR
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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