The Spliethoff Group's Floragracht, made the first of what looks to be many voyages to the Port of Milwaukee earlier this month to start regular monthly service to the port by the Dutch shipping group.
The ship's first cargo loaded at the Port of Milwaukee was equipment from Caterpillar Inc.'s South Milwaukee plant.
Regular ship service by the Spliethoff Group's relatively new Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway capable ships between the Port of Milwaukee and Europe is likely to open up new cargo opportunities for shippers in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois.
For Amsterdam, Netherlands-based Spliethoff, the regular sailings to the Port of Milwaukee represent an expansion of the Great Lakes service they initiated with the Cleveland-Europe Express service which provides regular service from the Port of Cleveland and Europe.
Spliethoff plans to have at least one cargo ship in Milwaukee every month, and possibly two. The Fagelgracht is scheduled to follow the Floragracht on May 12, with Antwerp, Belgium, as its European destination.
The American Narrows section of the St. Lawrence Seaway is once again open to commercial vessel traffic after the waterway was closed due to the grounding of the Bahamian-flagged dry bulk ocean vessel, Juno which ran aground in the early hours of Monday.
The 621-foot long ocean ship was "upbound" in the St. Lawrence River near the Thousand Islands Bridge between Alexandria Bay, NY and Wellesley Island on its way to Toronto, when it "lost steering" and ran hard aground under the bridge close to Wellesley Island. The ship was carrying a cargo of sugar, but no cargo, fuel, or oil was was spilled into the river, nor were there any injuries as a result of the incident.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported the ship was refloated by tug boats from a salvage crew at 7 a.m. Wednesday today and will be anchored at Mason Point, a few miles from where it ran aground until it can be inspected and sent to a nearby shipyard for repairs.
The ship's owners say the steering has been fixed.
At least seven other ships were delayed by the closing of the river to commercial navigation. With the Juno refloated and towed away from the shipping channel, the St. Lawrence Seaway resumed regular navigation conditions slightly before 8 a.m. this morning.
The amount of ice cover on the Great Lakes is roughly half of what it was at the same time last year. On April 15, 2014 almost 39 percent of the Great Lakes were still covered by ice. This year the ice coverage is just 19 percent.
Four of the five Great Lakes have less ice cover this year than they did last year at this time. The lone exception is Lake Erie, which has slightly more ice cover than last year.
Last week, on April 15, ice cover on Lake Superior was 27 percent less than half of the amount of ice that was covering the deepest of the Great Lakes last year when 62 percent of Lake Superior was covered by ice.
Currently, Lake Huron is 23 percent ice covered, while last year at this time there was 38 percent ice cover.
Lake Michigan had only 5 percent ice cover as of April 15 and Lake Ontario is virtually ice free with only 2 percent of the easternmost Great Lakes covered by ice.
Lake Erie is a slightly different story. On April 15, Lake Erie had just slightly more ice than last year at the same time. Erie is now 25 percent frozen versus 23 percent last year.
While the St. Lawrence Seaway has got off to a late start by pushing its opening date back by one week, the weather conditions should no longer be a hindrance for ships looking to use the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System.