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Cash Market Moves             01/24 10:03

   Winter Has Officially Begun on the Great Lakes

   The final laker arrived in Superior, Wisconsin, on Jan. 17, ending the 2021 
shipping season at the Port of Duluth-Superior.

Mary Kennedy
DTN Basis Analyst

   On Dec. 19, 2021, the Maria G, filled with grain from the CHS terminal in 
Superior, Wisconsin, became the last saltie to depart from the Port of 
Duluth-Superior, officially ending the grain shipping season. Since that time 
and up until Jan. 17, 2022, when the last ship arrived, lakers moved along the 
Great Lakes from the Port of Duluth-Superior with loads of coal and iron ore. 
The final vessel to leave the port was the Arthur M. Anderson on Jan. 14, 
loaded with iron ore.

   "There are five ships wintering in the Port of Duluth-Superior this year, 
which is one more than last year," said Jayson Hron, director of communication 
and marketing, Duluth Seaway Port Authority. "Winter layup is an especially 
busy time for skilled tradespeople throughout the Twin Ports and the Great 
Lakes, who perform millions of dollars in crucial maintenance work on the 
U.S.-flag lakers.

   "Engine work comprises a large portion of the winter work program. Some 
vessels have power plants capable of generating nearly 20,000 horsepower, and 
over the course of the season, a vessel can travel more than 70,000 miles. 
Engine parts need to be re-machined and re-installed so that ships can again 
operate almost continuously in 2022. Beyond engine maintenance, other winter 
work can include installation of new navigation equipment (e.g., 
state-of-the-art radar systems), steel replacement, hull inspections, upgrades 
to living quarters and galleys, etc."

   Hron added that, "With the Soo Locks now closed for the winter, the port 
will tabulate its final tonnage numbers for the 2021 season, which are expected 
to eclipse the pandemic-plagued 2020 totals by nearly 30%."

   On Jan. 15, the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, closed to marine 
traffic and are scheduled to reopen March 25. That closing date is set by a 
federal regulation, and the other ports on the Great Lakes usually close within 
that timeframe depending on ice conditions.

   Every year, the U.S. Corps of Engineers (USACE) uses the winter period to 
perform maintenance to keep the Soo Locks operating. The Detroit District team 
works long hours in extreme conditions to complete a significant amount of 
maintenance during this annual closure period. The work they perform is unique, 
especially given the harsh northern Michigan conditions they work in, noted the 

   The USACE Detroit District received $561 million in fiscal year 2022 of 
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Disaster Relief Supplemental 
Appropriations Act (DRSAA) for work in Michigan and on the Great Lakes, noted 
USACE in Jan. 19 news release. The IIJA was passed by the U.S. House of 
Representatives, and President Joe Biden signed it into law in November. USACE 
submitted a detailed spending plan to Congress as required by Jan. 14, 2022, 60 
days after enactment of the legislation. The projects receiving funding were 
announced Jan. 19, 2022.

   "The IIJA funding is for major Civil Works mission areas, including 
navigation, aquatic ecosystem restoration and flood damage reduction," said 
Detroit District Deputy District Engineer Kevin McDaniels. "The majority of 
money the Detroit District is receiving will fund construction of the New Lock 
at the Soo project." Nearly $479 million is slated for the Corps of Engineers 
mega project in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. An additional $37 million is for 
major rehabilitation and $4 million for other existing facility work.

   "The Soo Locks are nationally critical infrastructure, and their reliability 
is essential to U.S. manufacturing and National Security," said McDaniels. "A 
failure of the Poe Lock would have significant impacts to the U.S. economy, 
especially the steel industry."

   There are currently two active lock chambers at the Soo Locks facility, the 
Poe and MacArthur locks. The Poe Lock is the only one large enough for the 
1,000-foot freighters to traverse the locks. The New Lock at the Soo is being 
built on the site of and replacing two inactive locks, the Davis and Sabin, and 
will be the same size as the Poe Lock at 1,200-feet long and 110-feet wide, 
according to the news release.

   Nearly all domestically produced high-strength steel used to manufacture 
products like automobiles and appliances is made with taconite (iron ore) that 
must transit the Poe Lock, noted USACE.

   The remaining $36.5 million will go to environmental infrastructure, 
navigation, continuing authority projects and other civil works programs around 
Michigan and in Duluth-Superior Harbor, Twin Ports in Duluth, Minnesota and 
Superior, Wisconsin. "The remaining fiscal year 2022 IIJA funding is just as 
critical for the Great Lakes in general," said McDaniels. "With it, the Corps 
of Engineers can develop, manage, restore and protect our Great Lakes water 
resources and infrastructure."

   "The New Lock at the Soo will provide much needed resiliency in the Great 
Lakes Navigation System," McDaniels said. "It will eliminate the single point 
of failure in our nation's iron ore supply chain."

   Video of the American Century arriving in Superior for winter layup:

   USACE Detroit District news release detailing the work being done on the Soo 

   Detailed information on different vessel types:

   Mary Kennedy can be reached at

   Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

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