Pandemic impacts the port, nearly 100 crew and officers laid off

Updated: July 07, 2020 06:36 PM

The port is feeling the impact of the pandemic. Nearly 100 people are being laid off who work for Key Lakes. Key Lakes is the vessel operator for CN's Great Lakes fleet.

Key Lakes notified the city of Duluth last week in a letter. "I'm always very sympathetic and very sorry when I see a business that has had to make those decisions. I don't think those are made lightly, and hopefully their long term vision includes them coming back," shared Mayor Emily Larson.

According to the Vice President of Key Lakes, Mitch Koslow, all of the impacted workers are crew and officers aboard the Clarke, Blough, and Speer, which will be laid up. They plan to absorb as many of the people as possible on the six remaining boats.

"When economic conditions improve and the boats return to service, we intend to bring them all back," Koslow said in an email. Shoreside staff are not affected.

"I think it's fair to say the Port of Duluth Superior is not immune to the pandemic," shared Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. "We're just moving forward as best we can."

Port cargo is down compared to last year. Iron ore is the biggest commodity, and demand for steel has slowed. 

Still, there are bright spots. Like wind cargo. "We are hoping we might break last year's record. Our first two ships just arrived," DeLuca added.

Grain is up too, due to worldwide demand. 

As far as COVID cases, DeLuca said as of two weeks ago, there hadn't been any on the vessels in the Great Lakes.

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