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McKeil Marine opens the shipping season in Thunder Bay

Earliest opening of western Lake Superior port since 2008
Harvest Spirit enters the Port of Thunder Bay to open the 2024 shipping season.

The Port of Thunder Bay welcomed its first ship of the 2024 Great Lakes shipping season.

For the second consecutive year, the MV Harvest Spirit was first into port, pulling into Richardson International’s main grain elevator on March 23, earning captain Adam Hagen and chief engineer Gavin Pink the traditional top hat award from port authority chair Pat Bushby.

A port authority news release said this marks the earliest a ship has arrived in harbour since 2008. 

Mild winter conditions and lobbying by steel producers on the lakes persuaded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open the Soo Locks a few days earlier to marine traffic.

Owned by McKeil Marine, headquartered in Burlington, the Harvest Spirit was the last vessel to depart the port last January to close out the 2023 shipping season. 

The top hat ceremony was attended by Mayor Ken Boshcoff, Thunder Bay MPs Patty Hajdu and Marcus Powlowski, MPP Lisa Vaugeois and Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce.

In the release, the port authority said this annual rite of spring ceremony draws attention to the importance of the marine industry and the port’s impact on the local economy in providing significant employment and contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in spinoff effects.