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Arrival of season's first 'saltie' will be record earliest

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"Federal Hunter"
The first oceangoing ship of 2013 is expected to reach Duluth around midnight Friday, The arrival of the "Federal Hunter" from Germany is the earliest-ever in Duluth for a "saltie."
Courtesy Fednav, photo by Eira Voth

The first oceangoing ship of 2013 is expected to reach Duluth around midnight Friday, in the earliest arrival in the city for a "saltie."

The arrival of the the "Federal Hunter" from Germany comes about a week earlier than normal. The ship unloaded its cargo early in Quebec.

The "Federal Hunter" began its trip in Germany, and will load spring wheat and durum for its return trip to Europe. Salties travel more than 2,000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean before reaching Duluth. They typically haul steel products to North America from Europe, and return with grain.

There's a bit of fascination in the arrival of the first saltie of the season, said Ron Johnson with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

  "The saltwater ships -- I think there's kind of the mystique that they've come from a long way and they're going back a long way," Johnson said.

In a typical year. one saltie will visit Duluth for every ten lakers, the thousand-foot ships that carry mainly iron ore and coal around the Great Lakes. Salties can only be 740 feet long, which is the size of the locks at the Welland Canal, which bypasses Niagra Falls between Lakes Ontario and Erie.