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Top Hat Ceremony opens 2023 shipping season

The Harvest Spirit crossed Thunder Bay’s breakwall at 0500 hours
The Top Hat Ceremony is a traditional way to mark the opening of the shipping season.

THUNDER BAY — The MV Harvest’s arrival marked the beginning of the 2023 shipping season for the Port of Thunder Bay on Sunday. 

“It's a sign of spring for us, and at this time of year, once the first ship comes in, this is the furthest inland port in Canada, so you know, we see the commerce starting up again,” said Tim Heney, CEO, Thunder Bay Port Authority. 

“It's a pretty exciting time for us and everyone's optimistic. It's a, you know, great day, beautiful weather, perfect.”

The Harvest Spirit crossed Thunder Bay’s breakwall at 0500 hours, a day after passing through the Soo Locks and tied up at Superior Elevator and departed Sunday Night for Windsor with a 14,200-tonne load of canola.

Captain of the Harvest Spirit, Adam Hagen, said that being the vessel that opens Thunder Bay shipping season was quite an honour. 

“We know that the Thunder Bay is one of our main ports of call. This is my first time captaining in the first ship of the year and you know anything to promote the industry as I I feel that things are on the up with the with the shipping industry,” he said. 

“With the price of fuel and a lot of the environmental implications that are coming lately, definitely shipping anything by water is many, many times more environmentally friendly and efficient than by rail and certainly by truck.” 

The 2012-built Harvest Spirit is a bulker in the McKeil Marine fleet. McKeil is a marine service operator with over 50 vessels, a sailing and shore-based crew of about 350 and offices in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Harvest Spirit is a regular site in the Port of Thunder Bay, having made 21 trips for grain during the 2022 season. The vessel was second-to-last out of port before its winter closure in mid January. 

In a traditional Top Hat Ceremony on Sunday, Captain Hagen and Chief Engineer Gavin Pink received welcoming remarks and tokens of appreciation for opening the navigation season from the Port of Thunder Bay, the City of Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce. 

“The top hat is an old tradition that they give to the first captain of the year that's in it and as as you'll see from in the inside here there's a lot of old captains that have signed on here and some of them I recognize the gentleman that I've had the pleasure of working with and working for over the years,” said Captain Hagen. 

“So, to be it's a bit of a club I guess and I'm happy to be a part of it.” 

— TBnewswatch