70 ships await convoy escort by coast guard on Lake Superior
Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio
Seventy ships are waiting to get through the Soo Locks connecting Lake Superior.
Seaway Port Authority of Duluth facilities manager Jim Sharrow says he’s never seen so few ships moving into port. Only the second group of ships is arriving on Tuesday.
“And this is since the 25th of March when the locks opened,” he said. “That’s 27 days.”
Coast Guard Ice Operations Director Mark Gil says 70 vessels are waiting to get through the locks at Sault St. Marie, Mich., to and from Lake Superior.
“They’re parked somewhere like Port Huron or Lake Erie or down in Lake Michigan somewhere waiting for themselves to be called up,” said Gil. “Lake Superior, especially the east side, is still very much ice covered.”
Gil compares it to Chicago O’Hare International Airport operating with one runway. He says they can only convoy five ships at a time even though warmer weather is breaking up the ice.
“There’s enough water to move around, but there’s still enough ice that can trap those ships and put them in harm’s way,” said Gil. “So we’re reluctant to allow free movement, so we’re basically queuing vessel movement in the form of convoys.”
Six ships have been damaged so far. Gil hopes in the next five to seven days, they’ll have a clear path from one end of Lake Superior to another, making convoys unnecessary and eliminating the backlog of waiting ships.
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