The 2013 Lake Superior shipping season is getting under way at the port of Duluth: The 1,000-foot Mesabi Miner is scheduled to be the first departure of the season Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
The season's first laker will haul a load of coal to Marquette, Mich., and then return to Duluth over the weekend to load a shipment of iron ore.
The Soo Locks at the far eastern end of Lake Superior will open next Monday, allowing the Miner and other ships to transport iron ore, coal, limestone and other cargo to the lower Great Lakes.
"There's a lot of cross-lake activity that happens before the locks open, not just here on Lake Superior, but on lakes Michigan and Huron, where smaller vessels can make cross-lake moves before the actual locks open," said Adele Yorde, spokeswoman for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
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Yorde called the start of the shipping season a rite of spring in Duluth.
"This is a port community, and its residents keep track of this as much as the first robin," Yorde said.
Last year, ships moved nearly 37 million tons of cargo through the port of Duluth and Superior, Wis. Yorde expects an uptick in shipments of taconite pellets and coal this season.
Icebreakers plowed through two feet of ice in some places in the Duluth port last weekend to prepare for the shipping season.