Market Matters Blog

Record-Breaking Arrival for First Saltie in Duluth-Superior

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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The Fednav Limited Federal Dart enters the Duluth harbor assisted by a tug, on its way to drop of its load of 23,000 short tons of Turkish cement destined for the CRH/Ash Grove Cement Company terminal on Rice's Point in Duluth, Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Schauer Photo Images)

The first oceangoing ship of the season arrived in the Twin Ports of Duluth-Superior on Tuesday, breaking a record for the earliest arrival of a ship of its type at the port.

The 656-foot-long Federal Dart arrived under Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge at 3:30 p.m. CDT on March 28, marking the earliest date a saltie (oceangoing vessel) has ever arrived in the Port of Duluth-Superior. The Federal Dart is one of Fednav's 22 most modern handysize (smaller bulk carrier) vessels, built in 2018 at Oshima in Japan. (…)

The previous first saltie arrival record belonged to the Federal Hunter, which arrived March 30, 2013.

The arrival of the first saltie came shortly after the opening of the 2023 Great Lakes shipping season, with the opening of the Poe Lock on March 25. The Soo Locks, the Poe and MacArthur, are located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and connect Lake Superior to the rest of the Great Lakes. The Federal Dart passed through the Soo Locks on March 27.

The arrival of the first saltie is significant because it means the start of the grain shipping season in the Twin Ports. The last saltie of the 2022 grain shipping season left Duluth on Dec. 22, 2022, with a load of wheat heading to the Port of Bari located in Bari, in southeastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea.

The 2022 season was a difficult season for grain shipments at the Twin Ports, down 20.3% compared to 2021. It was the port's smallest grain throughput since 1890.

However, beet pulp pellets emerged as a highlight. Duluth-Superior exported 150,000 tons of beet pulp pellets this season, which was the most since 2014 and an 85% increase over last season, noted the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

"Grain is a very dynamic commodity in terms of supply, demand, pricing and routing, and the port faced a number of headwinds in 2022, including two years of tightening grain supplies worldwide, further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, a very strong dollar, extremely elevated transportation costs and competition from other countries' less expensive wheat," said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

"The mixture of grain moving through the Twin Ports is typically spring wheat, durum wheat, beet pulp pellets, soybeans and canola. The port is capable of handling anything, whether on ships, trucks or trains, or in containers."

DTN story about the opening of the Great Lakes shipping season:….

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