Cash Market Moves

2023 Twin Ports Grain Shipping Season Ends as Last Saltie Heads to Italy

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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It was a bitterly cold day in the Twin Ports of Duluth-Superior as the 624-foot-long Federal Kushiro saltie loaded wheat bound for Italy, ending the 2023 grain shipping season there. (Photo courtesy Duluth Seaway Port Authority)

The Fednav's Federal Kushiro sailed into the Duluth Harbor at 18:00 on Dec. 20, surrounded by ice and sea smoke and headed over to Duluth's Ceres-Riverland Ag grain terminal to load approximately 23,000 short tons of wheat bound for Italy.

It departed Duluth on Thursday, Dec. 22, at 20:30, one day ahead of the record set for the last saltie, the Federal Calumet, on Dec. 23, 1984, which departed Duluth-Superior on that date with a load of durum wheat bound for France.

Jayson Hron, spokesperson for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, told DTN, "All oceangoing vessels must be clear of the Montreal-Lake Ontario section of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System by noon Eastern Time on Dec. 31, 2022, which marks the Seaway's seasonal closure date. Maritime shipping across Lake Superior and within the Great Lakes will continue until the Soo Locks' seasonal closure on Jan. 15, 2023. The Soo Locks are scheduled to reopen March 25, 2023, which will commence the 2023 maritime shipping season."

As a fierce winter storm covered the Great Lakes region, concern mounted that the Federal Kushiro would barely make the cutoff at Montreal-Lake Ontario. Blizzard conditions and ice were slowing its progress as it traversed Lake Superior onto its final destination.

Huron said, "Due to gales and assorted challenging weather, the ship hugged the North Shore most of that night, sailing northeast before turning eastward on Dec. 23 and crossing Lake Superior."

On Dec. 28, Jayson said, "Federal Kushiro is presently in a downbound convoy, escorted by USCG icebreaking assets. Ice conditions have been challenging".

Good news came from St. Lawrence Seaway on the afternoon of Dec. 27 saying, "As a result of severe environmental conditions impacting navigation, the closing date for the Montreal-Lake Ontario Section has been extended from 12:00 (noon) Dec. 31, 2022, to 12:00 (noon) Jan. 1, 2023."

That news took the pressure off the Federal Kushiro and other ships needing to get to that point before the deadline. It arrived there late on the evening of Dec. 30 with time to spare and its next adventure would take her across the ocean to the Port of Bari located in Bari, southeastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea, with an expected arrival date of Jan. 13, 2023.

I'm guessing the crew of the Federal Kushiro will be thrilled to reach Bari, where temperatures on the arrival date are expected to be in the mid to upper 50s. Given the extreme cold, blizzard conditions and ice they experienced on their journey across the Great Lakes from Duluth, that temperature will be a welcome change.

Video of Federal Kushiro entering the Duluth Harbor at 18:02 on a frigid evening Dec. 20, 2023:…

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