The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, officially opened the Soo locks at 12:01 am – March 25th, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, marking the beginning of the 2018 Great Lakes shipping season.
The 1,000-foot, diesel powered, American Steamship Co., ‘American Century’ entered the Poe Lock early Sunday morning by heading upbound into Lake Superior. The vessel was built in 1981 at Bay Shipbuilding Company, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and includes self-unloading technology.
After a challenging trip through the icy St. Mary’s River, American Century arrived on the pier around 3 p.m. Saturday.
Representatives of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, the Chamber of Commerce, the Soo Locks Visitors Center Association and I Love Sault Ste. Marie, gathered earlier in the day to welcome the vessel and present gifts to the captain and crew, as is traditional, to mark the occasion.
Saultonline was among the approx. 300 freighter fans who filled the Soo Locks observation decks in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
American Century was followed by ships Philip R. Clarke and Edgar B. Speer, which moored on the east-center and MacArthur Lock piers.
Coast Guard cutters assisting in the spring icebreaking efforts leading up to opening date included USCG Mackinaw, USCG Hollyhock, USCG Mobile Bay and CCGS Samuel Risley.
The Soo Locks Visitor Center opened for on Sunday to celebrate the first day of the 2018 navigation season.
“Several ships were scheduled to leave their lay-up ports Friday, so we expected a very busy opening day,” said Kevin Sprague, area engineer, Soo Area Office. “People can check the district Facebook page for first boat photos and updates through the weekend.”
“The Soo Locks are a critical connection in the Great Lakes navigation system and we are dedicated to their reliability,” said Lt. Col. Dennis P. Sugrue, district engineer, Detroit District. “Thanks to our talented team at the Soo Locks. We have completed several critical maintenance projects this winter. We are ready for another great navigation season on the Great Lakes.”
The locks were officially closed on Jan. 15 and underwent critical repairs and maintenance during the 10 week long winter shutdown. Critical repairs and maintenance to the Poe Lock during the shutdown included replacement of gate anchors, miter blocks, quoin blocks, and cylinder seals.
Final work on Poe Lock operating system controls was completed. The MacArthur Lock dewatering bulkheads were sandblasted, repaired and painted. Work on the MacArthur Lock included replacement of gate anchors, bevel gears and filling valve seals. The MacArthur Lock work will continue through April.
The Detroit District operates and maintains the Soo Locks along with 94 harbors and connecting channels on lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St. Clair and the portion of Lake Erie that borders the state of Michigan. Located on the St. Marys River, Michigan, the locks have been a part of the Corps’ navigation mission since 1881.