First ‘saltie’ arrives in Duluth, marking start of the 2024 shipping season

A barge on the water
The Barbro G glides into the Duluth Harbor on Monday to pick up a load of durum wheat to transport to Algeria. The ship was the first oceangoing vessel, or "saltie" to arrive in the Twin Ports, marking the start of the 2024 shipping season.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

The first oceangoing vessel of the 2024 shipping season, the “Barbro G,” sailed into the port of Duluth-Superior just before noon Monday morning, marking the traditional opening of the Great Lakes shipping season in the Twin Ports.

People lined the canal to greet the crew of the 623-foot vessel as it glided under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, blaring its horn.

The cargo ship, operated by Sweden’s Brochart KB and captained by Borys Smyrnov of Ukraine, is scheduled to load roughly 22,000 short tons of durum wheat at a grain storage terminal owned by Ceres Global Ag Corp., based in Golden Valley. Its facility in the Twin Ports can hold more than 12 million bushels of grain.

From Duluth — the westernmost port in the Great Lakes — the ship and cargo will sail back through Lake Superior and the other lakes, and then through the St. Lawrence Seaway and across the Atlantic Ocean, bound for Algeria.

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“Despite our recent snowstorm, arrival of the season’s first full Seaway transit is a true sign of spring and a reminder of the economic impact these great ships help deliver to our region,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

“We’re excited to welcome ‘Barbro G’ and share our Midwestern wheat cargo with the world via the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System,” DeLuca added.

Ships began to emerge from their winter lay-up nearly two weeks ago in Duluth, when the ‘Beau Comeau’ departed with a load of iron ore pellets, bound for the lower Great Lakes.

That ship was the first so-called “laker” to leave the Duluth-Superior port. The ‘Barbro G’ is the first “saltie” to arrive.

The Port Authority and Visit Duluth sponsor an annual contest to guess the arrival date of the first saltie. This year’s contest drew nearly 8,000 entries.

The arrival is four days later than last year, when the first oceangoing ship arrived in Duluth/Superior on March 28. That’s the earliest date on record. The latest arrival of the port’s first saltie was May 7, in 2014.