Shipping season over in the Northland

Updated: January 15, 2021 06:54 PM
Created: January 15, 2021 01:28 PM

The Soo Locks close at 11:59pm on Friday, signaling the end of the shipping season for 2020.

Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, said, "Overall, the 2020 shipping season will always be remembered as it started with bright hopes, and was crushed by COVID."

The port will likely finish 2020 under 30 million tons of cargo, which hasn't happened since 1985.

Slowdowns in steel production really dragged down the iron ore cargo numbers. Coal was also down significantly.

But there were bright spots, especially with wind cargo. "We finished at 525,000 freight tons, which is a season record," DeLuca said. "And more importantly, it signals the emergence of the port of Duluth-Superior as a wind energy cargo hub. Which is great for cargo diversity, especially for renewable energy nationwide."

Grain numbers were also good.

She also praised the mariners. "The resiliency and resourcefulness of the mariners is another bright spot. We do need to thank them. I think we were afraid there were going to be cases, but it was a relatively clean season."

They are looking ahead to a better 2021. "We have steel demand rising, and vaccinations happening. We look to next year with great hope."

During the lock closure, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will be busy doing maintenance and repairs.

The locks reopen again on March 25th. 

Four lakers will remain in the Twin Ports for winter lay-up.

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