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First saltie’s arrival is one for the history books

The Diana entering under the Lift Bridge on May 8. (Photo by Diane Hilden)1 / 6
Capt. Gheorghe Panait, chief officer Darius Jucius, and Third Officer Romi Neagu pose with Doug Paulson of the Twin Ports Ministry at the first saltie celebration. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 6
A crewmember of the Diana sits perched on the deck while the wheat cargo is loaded. The Diana was loaded with 11,550 metric tons of wheat at the CHS elevator in Superior. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 6
Adele Yorde of the Duluth Superior Port Authority reads the book given to her by Captain Panait about the shipping company’s history. The book is written in four languages. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)4 / 6
Mark Privratsky, a staffer for Rep. Nolan, and Doug Paulson, soon-to-be director of the Twin Ports Ministry to Seafarers, get a tour of the Diana’s engine room from chief officer Darius Jucius. (Photo by Teri Cadeau) 5 / 6
Tugboats Nels J and North Dakota assist the Diana, the Zealand Delilah and the Walter McCarthy through the ice near Duluth on the night of May 7. (Photo by Paul Scinocca.) 6 / 6

Sometimes even a 435-foot ship needs a little help through the ice.

That’s exactly what the Diana, the first saltie (ocean-going vessel) of the 2014 shipping season, needed when it arrived in the Duluth- Superior harbor. The ship was planning on arriving around 8 a.m. May 7, but due to ice delays, didn’t dock until after midnight on May 8.

The ship received help from two icebreaking tugs, but the biggest help came from a 1,000-foot laker passing by.

“The laker is much more stronger than us. They come close and make a break through the ice. We were following them very close,” the Diana’s captain, Gheorghe Panait, said.

Panait said that the ship is not an ice class vessel, but luckily the soft ice made it not dangerous.

The ship flies under the flag of Antigua in the Caribbean and had traveled from Brazil. The ship was loaded with approximately 11,550 metric tons of wheat at the CHS elevator before heading out for Algeria on May 8. But before it departed, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority held a celebration to mark this first saltie’s arrival.

“We witnessed the earliest arrival on record for a first saltie of the season last year: March 30, 2013. This year, we’re a week into May and just hitting that milestone,” said Adele Yorde, spokesperson for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “While this will go down as the latest on record, the ice-encrusted start to the season can’t dampen enthusiasm here in the Twin Ports.”

Until the Diana, the latest arrival of this Port’s first saltie had been May 3, which happened in 1959 when the Ramon de Larrinaga arrived in Duluth – the very first saltie to have transited the St. Lawrence Seaway after it opened that year.

The celebration entailed an exchange of gifts. The captain was presented with a book about the the history of the port along with coffee and mugs. Upon receiving the gifts, Panait presented Yorde with a book about the history of the shipping company the ship sailed under. The book was written in at least four languages.

“I’ll have to take this back to the office and add it to our collection,” Yorde said.

The bridge was filled with members of the press along with noted visitors including Rep. Rick Nolan staffer Mark Privratsky, U.S. Coast Guard MSU Duluth Commander Alan Moore and Superior Port Director Jason Serck.

Third mate Romi Neagu was busy snapping pictures with his smartphone of the ship’s crowded bridge. The bridge is the ship’s command center where the captain and officers oversee everything on board. He said with a crew

of 16, the room never usually had that many people.

“Normally there are maybe four of us at most,” Neagu said.

Neagu just started a six month tour with the ship in March. He said he enjoys his job, but does miss his family back home in Constanta, Romania.

“I know some people do it just for the money, but I actually enjoy it. It’s not so easy at the beginning, but it gets better,” Neagu said.

Rev. Tom Anderson from the Twin Ports Ministry to Seafarers also was in attendance at the welcoming celebration. For the crew he brought Easter cards created by children from churches around the Twin Ports.

“It’s a little late for Easter, but that just shows that we’ve been waiting for you for a long time,” Anderson said.

Anderson also brought Doug Paulson with him to introduce him to the procedures in place for greeting seafarers. Paulson will take over Anderson’s position as director of the ministry when Anderson retires in July.

The winner of the 2014 “First Ship Contest” was announced at the celebration by Gene Shaw of Visit Duluth. The winner is a women from Erie, Pa. who picked May 8 because it is the date of her daughter’s birthday. Of the nearly 1,200 entries received, just 27 entries guessed arrival dates within the first full week of May.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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