Great Lakes Ships To Undergo Maintenance, Inspections As Shipping Season Winds Down

Cargo Will Continue To Be Shipped Until Closure Of Soo Locks In Mid-January

Great Lakes carriers are often in constant use throughout the entirety of the shipping season. Photo: Mark (CC-BY-NC-ND).

Great Lakes ships are getting ready for winter layup and repairs in the Duluth-Superior port.

Lake Carriers Association Vice President Glen Nekvasil said they expect U.S. flag vessels on the Great Lakes to undergo about $75 million in inspections, surveys and repairs in total.

Fraser Shipyards in Superior, for its part, will do steel work and repairs for seven boats in the harbor this winter. Operations Director Tom Curelli said they’re doubling their workforce to about 200 people to handle the assignment.

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“We’re really grateful the vessels keep coming back here,” Curelli said. “We’re a good place for them to have their work done because they’re right here at the start of the year where they can take their load and head right down to the lakes.”

Curelli said they’ll conduct maintenance on the vessels for eight to 10 weeks. The boats will also be inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping.

“Of course, when they go through to do their surveys and inspections, they’ll find little things here and there that need to be repaired before they can go back out in the spring,” said Curelli.

Last winter, Fraser Shipyards had 10 boats in the harbor. Curelli said they saw more damage to propellers and rudders last year due to the harsh winter.

“All the boats got here through the ice. There was a lot of repairs that had been building up over the year,” he said. “But when they departed here, most of them ended up coming back for a little bit with ice damage. It was kind of like the gift that kept on giving.”

Meanwhile, Nekvasil said lakers will keep carrying cargo until the Soo Locks close on Jan. 15.

“Typically we’ll see some iron ore running out of Escanaba (in Michigan) until the end of January,” he said.

Nekvasil said around $6 million was spent this past spring to repair ice damage to boats.

“Fortunately the ice has not been an issue yet. We’re getting those cargoes in and hopefully it stays that way,” Nekvasil said.

The last ocean-bound vessel left the Twin Ports this weekend.