Indian crew of first ship welcomed in ceremony
The Federal Dart was the earliest first saltie to arrive in Port of Duluth-Superior history.
DULUTH — Capt. Anuvarat Arora knew he had a chance of guiding the Federal Dart and its 22 crew members from India into the Port of Duluth-Superior as the first oceangoing vessel of the season.
“As soon as we got the voyage instructions, and we calculated the distance and the time required to reach Duluth, I knew we’d be one of the few first ones coming into the lakes,” Arora said.
The Federal Champlain was ahead of them through the St. Lawrence Seaway but stopped in Hamilton, Canada on Lake Ontario.
Then Arora knew his ship would be the first oceangoing ship, or saltie, to complete the 2,342-mile voyage from the Atlantic Ocean to North America's farthest-inland seaport.
Arora, who has sailed into Duluth four or five times but never on the first to arrive, said he was “really super excited” to be the first saltie of the year during the annual welcoming ceremony held Thursday in the pilothouse of the 656-foot Federal Dart.
The ship was unloading 23,000 short tons of Turkish cement at the CRH / Ash Grove Cement Terminal on Rice's Point in Duluth.
The ship arrived at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, setting the record for the earliest saltie of the season to reach Duluth record by two days.
It had left Turkey 25 days earlier, making a relatively easy and fast journey to Duluth.
“The Atlantic was quite good. It was not that rough, which it normally is in winters, so we had a smooth passage all the way,” Arora said. “And we did good speed.”
And thanks to a relatively low-ice year, an uneventful passage through the St. Lawrence Seaway.
“We had a few ice patches, especially in the St. Lambert and Ste. Catherine (locks) ... but after that, the Welland canal was absolutely clear of ice, no ice at all,” Arora said. “It was quite smooth.”
Up next, the ship is headed to Thunder Bay where it will load up with grain destined for the United Kingdom, Arora said.
The Duluth Seaway Port Authority, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Superior Mayor Jim Paine and the Rev. Dianna Bell of the Twin Ports Ministry to Seafarers presented Arora with Northland-themed gifts.
Among the gifts were a Frost River pack, a book about the history of the port and maple syrup. Cmdr. Jarrod DeWitz of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Duluth gave Arora a unit coin.
“We wish you godspeed and good health as you continue to move in your industry this year,” Larson said.
First ship winner within two minutes
The winner of the 40th annual First Ship contest, Patricia Miranda, guessed the first saltie of the season would pass under the Aerial Lift Bridge at 3:28 p.m. March 28, just two minutes ahead of the Federal Dart’s actual arrival time. Runner-up James Ford had a guess of 3:25 p.m.
More than 9,200 people made entries in the Visit Duluth competition.