April 17, 2019

Konnie Lemay
Business North

The official 6:48 a.m. arrival under the Aerial Lift Bridge April 15 marked the Maria G both as the first saltwater vessel able to make its way from the Atlantic Ocean all 2,342 miles to Duluth-Superior and, this year, and as the first to make it all the way through the 60-year-old St. Lawrence Seaway.

The First Ship ceremony, the second spring port tradition, followed in the afternoon with official greetings and gifts from local dignitaries near the propeller of the vessel docked at Riverland Ag/Duluth Storage. It will be loaded with 21,000 metric tons of spring wheat. The ship dropped off a load of steel in Oshawa, Ontario, before heading through the Soo Locks.

Officiating was Jayson Hron, communications director for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, and also on hand to welcome Capt. Ievgen Medvedenko and his 22-member crew were Debra DeLuca, the port’s executive, Pastor Doug Paulson of the Seafarer’s Ministry, Commander Erin Williams of the U.S. Coast Guard, and mayors Jim Paine of Superior and Emily Larson of Duluth.

Maarja Anderson Hewitt of Visit Duluth came to both greet the captain and crew and to announce that Debra Keech of Stillwater submitted the winning guess in the 36th annual First Ship contest. She guessed that the first ship would enter the port at 6:30 a.m. today, just 18 minutes off the mark. There were more than 2,100 entries this year, 85 of which chose April 15. As winner, she earned a grand prize Duluth getaway package that includes passes to four Duluth attractions, gift cards to Duluth Coffee, Duluth Cider and Lake Ave. Restaurant & Bar as well as one night stay in Canal Park Lodge. The runner-up, Linda Williams of Cambridge, guessed 6:23 p.m., and also wins a prize package that includes lodging and gift certificates.

As with most salties entering the Twin Ports, Maria G represents several countries’ interests. The captain is from the Ukraine, the ship owner is Sweden-based Brochart KB, the ship sails under the Maltese flag and the cargo will head for Italy.

The Seaway agent is Colley Motorships and the local vessel agent is Guthrie-Hubner. Ceres Terminals is providing the stevedoring with tug assists from The Great Lakes Towing Company.

Speaking briefly with BusinessNorth after the ceremony, Capt. Medvedenko said that before today, Detroit was the farthest west he’d come on the Great Lakes to load.

“Safe passage depends a lot on the crew,” he said, praising his own “good, experienced” sailors. He joked, too, that about half the men in the Ukraine “are seamen.” He plans a return trip to Duluth later in the season, which will give him a look at the harbor without vast chunks of floating snow and ice on which were perched Canada geese, also just arriving for spring.

The April 15 arrival is not too far off last year, when the first saltie (Federal Weser) arrived April 12. According to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the latest arrival of the Port’s first saltie was May 7, 2014 (Diana). The earliest was March 30, 2013 (FederalHunter).