The first oceangoing vessel of the 2021 maritime shipping season arrived Sunday in the Port of Duluth-Superior.
Federal Biscay, a 656-foot bulk carrier owned by Montréal-based Fednav, will earn the First Ship distinction, completing the season’s first full transit of the St. Lawrence Seaway en route to the Great Lakes’ westernmost port. By tradition, this first full transit marks the annual opening of the Duluth-Superior Harbor, although the interlake season began with the Soo Locks’ opening on March 24.
Upon arrival through the Duluth Ship Canal, Federal Biscay will visit the CRH Cement Duluth Terminal to discharge approximately 21,000 metric tons of cement destined for use in infrastructure projects stretching from the Twin Ports to Edmonton, Alberta.
The ship loaded its dry bulk cargo in Canakkale, Turkey, before sailing the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System en route to Duluth.
“Arrival of the season’s first full Seaway transit is a true sign of spring and also of the prosperity these great ships help deliver to our region,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
“We’re excited to see it and excited also to welcome its cement cargo, which will help build critical infrastructure throughout North America. It’s another example of how Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping delivers the critical goods and raw materials of our everyday lives.”
 Due to COVID-19 precautions, attendance will be limited for the annual First Ship celebration event, which is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday morning. A fixture of the celebration – the First Ship contest, co-sponsored by Visit Duluth and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority – will crown a winner from nearly 4,500 entries based on the official arrival time of Federal Biscay.
The first saltie’s arrival each season is a reminder that the Port of Duluth-Superior is truly Mid-America’s gateway to the world. Located 2,342 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, Duluth-Superior is the Great Lakes’ top tonnage port and one of the nation’s top 20. It links North America’s heartland to regional and overseas markets, enabling manufacturers and cargo owners to serve and compete in the global marketplace.
The CRH Duluth Cement Terminal opened in 1982 on Clure Public Marine Terminal land leased from the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. Industrial revenue bonds issued by the Port Authority aided in the facility’s construction. Upon its opening, the complex earned honors from the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers as one of its “Seven Wonders of Engineering in Minnesota.” The 284-foot, four-silo structure is the tallest industrial building in Duluth-Superior. In total, the facility can accommodate 43,000 tons of cement. Dave Sobczak manages the facility for CRH US, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of cement and mineral components.
Founded more than 75 years ago, Fednav Limited is Canada’s largest oceangoing bulk shipping company. Fednav’s fleet consists of more than 120 ships. Fednav also operates 11 marine terminals in North America.
Federal Biscay is sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands and is captained by Melwyn Dias of India. The ship was built in 2015 by Oshima Shipbuilding in Japan.
Historical Note: The latest arrival of the port’s first saltie was May 7, 2014 (Diana). The earliest was March 30, 2013 (Federal Hunter).
Approximately 800 ships and 35 million short tons of cargo move through the Port of Duluth-Superior each year, making it the Great Lakes’ largest tonnage port and one of the nation’s top 20.