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Vessel opens ocean shipping season at Canada’s furthest inland port

Captain Anuvarad Arora of the MV Federal Dart was bestowed the ceremonial Top Hat on Saturday

THUNDER BAY — The first “salty” vessel of the 2023 shipping season entered the Port of Thunder Bay on Friday and was honoured on Saturday with the 2023 Salty Top Hat Ceremony. 

The MV Federal Dart, a five-year-old Marshall Islands-flagged bulker, berthed at Superior Elevator to take on a load of Canadian wheat, and Captain Anuvarad Arora said that he’s no stranger to the Port of Thunder Bay. 

“I have been here. I've loaded potash as captain, I've loaded wheat at Richardson, I've loaded wheat at Viterra terminal. This is the first time at Superior Elevator and being the first salty at the same time,” he said. 

“We loaded cement in Turkey, we came to Duluth for discharging of cement, we discharged cement in Duluth and came all the way to Thunder Bay.”

With cargo-loading operations underway on Saturday afternoon, Captain Arora was bestowed the ceremonial top hat by Pat Bushby, a Port board director.

Chief engineer Samit Sachan was also on hand; both crew leaders received gifts of thanks for opening the oceangoing shipping season at Canada’s furthest inland port. 

The Seaway route via the Port of Thunder Bay is a critical supply chain link for Canadian grain and potash exports, as well as imports of general and breakbulk cargo, such as steel products.

Tim Heany, CEO at the Thunder Bay Port Authority, said that the salty is around 30 to 35 per cent of the tonnage coming out of the port. 

“But inbound, though they represent most of the business, so like the business we built at Kiefer is direct by salty from Europe. So, they're a special part of the system and they also top up. A lot of them top up wheat in the river that's carried down by Lakers, so it's pretty integrated.

“But certainly we can build a business on general cargo around saltwater ships on the direct business from Europe to Western Canada. So it’s a bit special that way.” 

Shipping by oceangoing vessel is gaining prominence at the port — Salty visits are up by 43 per cent in the last decade. 

“You get about 400 ships in total, but 150 of them will be this type of saltwater vessel, and the remainder will be Lakers, so it's a big part of the commerce of Thunder Bay,” said Heany. 

“Really, that's about 900 people who work in the port and around the port, so it's the biggest industrial taxpayer in the city. It is a big part of the of the economy of the town for sure."

Rounding out the Top Hat Ceremony, City of Thunder Bay Mayor Ken Boshcoff provided a welcome from the city, while Christeann Hryb of Thunder Bay Shipping offered remarks as the vessel’s local agent. Canon Ed Swayze of the local Mission to Seafarers chapter provided a Seafarers’ blessing. 

The Federal Dart set sail for the United Kingdom on Sunday. 

— TBnewswatch