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Captain Anuvarad Arora places the Top Hat upon his head, as part of a ceremony welcoming the first 'Salty' of the 2023 shipping season. (Adam Riley/Acadia Broadcasting)

First ‘Salty’ arrives

By Adam Riley Apr 9, 2023 | 9:00 AM

Thunder Bay’s shipping season is kicking into high gear now that the first ocean faring vessel or ‘Salty’ as they are known as has arrived, and with that arrival came a special ceremony Saturday for the Captain and Chief Engineer of the MV Federal Dart.

This isn’t the first time Captain Anuvarad Arora has pulled into port here in The Lakehead, serving on four other vessels, but it is the first time he has received the Salty Top Hat, an honour bestowed upon many before him.

“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.”

But this year it was made even more special, as he has been at the helm of the Federal Dart for only two months.

“Absolutely really excited about it, and it feels amazing.”

Prior to her arrival in Thunder Bay the Federal Dart crossed the Atlantic with a load of cement from Turkey, offloading it in Duluth, and in all of Arora’s 18 years navigating waterways, encountering elements of last weeks spring weather on Lake Superior was a first.

“From Duluth to Thunder Bay, we faced a snowstorm in the night, so that was something of a different experience altogether.”

The arrival of the first ‘Laker’, the MV Harvest Spirit, on March 27, opened up the 2023 shipping season, but as Port Authority CEO Tim Heney explains, while much of the system is integrated, inbound ‘Saltys’ represent most of the business.

“The Salty is about 30 to 35 percent of the tonnage coming out of the port, but inbound they represent most of the business.”

Heney adds they play a special part of the system by topping up with wheat in the river which is carried down by the ‘Lakers’.

Over the past few weeks the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Samuel Risley has been crisscrossing the harbour area breaking up the ice, which has allowed for both classes of ship to arrive in port.

Getting the port clear according to Heney, has set the beginning of the season off to a strong start on the grain side of things.

“Last year was the 3rd biggest harvest in history for wheat on the Prairies, so very strong for the first half. Hard to predict the secondly half cuz that’s the harvest for this year, and then you have to predict the weather which is tough.”

But despite that uncertainty, he remains optimistic.

“I think we’re gonna have a great year, probably bigger than last year I think.”

From a numbers perspective the Port of Thunder Bay employs around 900 people and is the largest industrial taxpayer in the city at around $500 thousand dollars, with $370 million in annual economic impact, and is considered the #1 export port on the seaway.

In an average shipping season Thunder Bay will see around 400 vessels arrive in port, with about 150 of them being a similar type to the Federal Dart, which leaves today with its load of Canadian wheat, bound for the United Kingdom.


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