Shipping Season 2019
Watching ships pass under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park is one of the most iconic and must-see things to do when visiting Duluth, Minnesota. View the Duluth ship schedule to see when boats, from all around the world, are estimated to arrive or depart from Duluth’s Lake Superior Harbor. Get your camera ready and be prepared for the horns!
There are 2 distinct types of ships that visit the port on a regular basis. 90% of the vessel traffic is comprised of “Lakers;” bulk carriers specially built to sail the Great Lakes. The largest U.S. Lakers are over 1,000 feet long, with a carrying capacity of nearly 70,000 short tons. These ships are predominantly black or “hull red” (the natural color of iron ore) in color. The majority of Lakers are now self-unloaders with a long boom mounted above their decks. The average lifespan of lakers is 40-50 years. These ships remain on the Great Lakes because they are too large to fit through the St. Lawrence Sea Way.
The second type of ship is known as “Salties.” Salties are often much more colorful and can often be seen in hues of green, blue, and red. They typically have a series of cranes rising above their decks and have sharply cut away or rake bows, in comparison to the vertical bows of lakers. The maximum size of salties is 740 feet. Salties have a deeper draft and lower buoyancy in the Great Lakes fresh water, thus they only accept partial loads until they’re through the St. Lawrence Sea Way and back out in salt water. These ships have shorter lifespans than Lakers due to the corrosive nature of the ocean’s salt water.
The sailing schedules of the ships are dictated not only by the weather but also by the economy and demand for the goods they carry. The Duluth shipping season typically runs late March through January.