SAULT STE. MARIE, MI – In the final days of the winter shipping season on the Upper Great Lakes, there’s always a little bit of steel horse jockeying as freighter fans speculate about which laker will be the last to go through the Soo Locks before they close for their annual scheduled maintenance.
Late Tuesday, that honor went to The Manitoulin. The 664-foot self-discharging bulk carrier is owned by Lower Lakes Towing Ltd.
Built in 1991 – and re-built and re-named at least once since then – she flies under the Canadian flag.
She was approaching the Soo Locks around after 9 p.m. Tuesday – making the locks’ Jan. 15 midnight deadline with just hours to spare.
“This evening at 9:30 p.m. we locked through the Manitoulin, finishing up another successful navigation season at the Soo Locks,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on its Facebook page to mark the event. “We have a busy season of winter work ahead of us as we complete scheduled maintenance projects. The Soo Locks will reopen for the new navigation season March 25, 2019.”
DRE Designs, a great site to check if you religiously follow freighters around the Great Lakes – captured some footage of the Manitoulin after she had locked through. From there, she was headed to Essar Algoma Steel on the Canadian side of the river, to her layup berth there, DRE Designs staff said. That video is below.
Each year, more than 4,500 ships move 80 million tons of cargo through the locks in the St. Marys River. The locks serve to raise and lower ships as they travel between the higher-elevation Lake Superior and the lower-elevation Lake Huron.
Every year the locks close Jan.15 and re-open March 25. During this 10-week period, workers conduct maintenance on the locks’ parts, replace any worn pieces, and give the locks a thorough inspection, the Army Corps said.