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Appreciating our Twin Ports

The Roger Blough, pictured here being repainted in 1996, was this year the first ship to pass under Lift Bridge. (Duluth News Tribune file photo)

Our beloved industrial port bustles each year during the nine months that it serves as a world port, when the St. Lawrence Seaway is open. Thankfully, domestic shipping lanes are typically kept open for an additional month each year, with the help of tugboats and the Coast Guard's icebreakers. This means that our world famous Aerial Lift Bridge remains in the down position for just two months each year.

It is, therefore, reason to celebrate each spring when the Lift Bridge opens to make way for the first vessel to enter or leave our port. The first commercial freighter to pass under the bridge this new shipping season occurred Wednesday, March 22. The freighter Roger Blough left its winter layup in Duluth, bound for Two Harbors to pick up a load of iron ore pellets. A hardy group of onlookers lined the ship canal to witness this impressive event.

Those of us who have the good fortune to live and work in the Twin Ports benefit daily from the activity generated within the largest tonnage port on the Great Lakes. Each year, our port handles an average of 35 million tons of cargo and hosts nearly 900 vessel visits. Transporting coal, iron ore and grain have been the backbone of our region's economy for over a century. It is universally understood that transporting these products by vessel is the most environmentally friendly and efficient way to do so.

The Twin Ports is our nation's most inland port. It is recognized as one of the most efficient, centrally located commodities hubs in North America. There are 60 businesses operating in our port. They provide nearly 1,000 full-time, well-paying jobs.

I share this detail to encourage all of us to internalize and appreciate the powerful, positive impact that our working port has on our beloved community. Our Zenith City was established in 1870 as a port city. It is why Duluth has prospered for 147 years. Most of us have a friend, or a neighbor or family member whose employment is made possible by the activities within this remarkable industrial port.

In summary, the port may offer us a direct benefit in the form of employment. Or, it may offer us a more indirect benefit such as affording us a glorious view of a freighter making its way through the port on its way to the far reaches of the globe. Our lives are enhanced because we live and work in the Twin Ports.

David Ross

David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751.

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