April 25, 2018

Arrival marks official opening of ocean shipping season

Kris Ketonen · CBC News · Posted: Apr 25, 2018

The MV Federal Bering is the first saltie to arrive in Thunder Bay this year, marking the official opening of the 2018 international shipping season. (Kris Ketonen/CBC)

Better late than never.

The first saltie, or ocean-going vessel, arrived in Thunder Bay port on Sunday, marking the official opening of the port's international shipping season.

And even though it's a bit later than usual, the arrival of the MV Federal Bering was still a cause for celebration on Tuesday, as Captain Philips Kuruvilla was honoured with the traditional top hat ceremony.

"We were told we would probably be the first ship," Kuruvilla said after the ceremony. "It's always nice to be the first person anywhere, right? Everybody wants to be a winner."

Captain Phillips Kuruvilla of the MV Federal Bering was honoured with the traditional top hat ceremony at Richardson's main terminal on Tuesday. (Kris Ketonen/CBC)

Kuruvilla said the two-year-old, 200-metre-long Federal Bering, owned by Fednav, berthed at Richardson's main elevator on Sunday after sailing from Burns Harbor, Indiana, located at the southern tip of Lake Michigan. There, the Federal Bering dropped off a load of steel slabs it had carried across the Atlantic from Russia.

In Thunder Bay, the vessel was taking on about 21,000 metric tonnes of grain, and was due to set off later Tuesday on a 7,800-kilometre voyage to Casablanca, Morocco.

Thunder Bay Port Authority CEO Tim Heney said this year, the international shipping season is opening a bit later than usual.

While in Thunder Bay, the MV Federal Bering took on about 21,000 metric tonnes of grain. It departed Tuesday for Casablanca, Morocco. (Kris Ketonen/CBC)

"We're usually in the first week of April," he said. "Heavier ice conditions this year than we've seen in some years."

"Certainly, we hope we can make up for that throughout the season."

Heney said there's still a considerable backlog of grain waiting to be shipped out this season.

"The winter was tough on the prairies, especially going to the west, to Vancouver," he said. "So there's a lot of grain left over this year, more than normal."

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"So we're hoping it's a busy season and we get a good share of that coming through Thunder Bay."

Heney said grain shipments are ramping up since the shipping season opened with the arrival of the first laker — lakers only travel the Great Lakes — at the end of March.

"The port has huge capacity, so we're hoping to see it get utilized," Heney said.

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