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Video: First freighter leaves Duluth, kicking off the 2017 shipping season

The Roger Blough will lead the way through the Soo Locks on Saturday.

At first light, Roger Blough became the first ship to leave Duluth for the 2017 shipping season.

The freighter left port at 7:46 a.m., according to DuluthBoats.com, and traveled under the Duluth Lift Bridge en route to Two Harbors to load up on iron ore, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority says.

The Blough will then head to the lower Great Lakes to make deliveries to steel mills, and she'll be the first ship to go through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, when the locks open at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority says. The freighter led the way through the locks last year, too.

A few other ships are expected to leave Duluth Wednesday, and with the Soo Locks opening Saturday the Port of Duluth-Superior could see its first arrivals from the lower lakes on Sunday – thanks to the Great Lakes being nearly free of ice.

When the Soo Locks open, there are expected to be eight downbound vessels (ships like the Blough that are headed for the lower lakes) and nearly as many upbound vessels (ships that are headed to Lake Superior) waiting to go through, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

Officials have high hopes that the 2017 shipping season will be strong, with KDAL reporting that cargo volumes throughout the Great Lakes is expected to increase this year.

Last year, cargo shipments were below average on the Great Lakes, MLive reported.

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