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DULUTH — Eight ships will spend the off-season in the Twin Ports, twice as many as were here last winter, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

On a 7-degree Wednesday night, dozens of people lined the north pier along the canal to watch the Paul R. Tregurtha, the longest ship on the Great Lakes at over 1,000 feet, glide past occasional plates of ice and under the Aerial Lift Bridge. Other ships scheduled to settle here include Baie Comeau, John G. Munson, Lee A. Tregurtha, Manitoulin, Arthur M. Anderson, John Boland, and American Spirit.

The John J. Boland left the port early Thursday morning with the final load of the season — iron ore to be delivered to the Algoma Steel facility at the Canadian Soo, above the Soo Locks. The Boland will then return to the Port of Duluth-Superior for winter layup.

This is the most ships to settle into ports here since the winter of 2016-17. Up to 200 tradespeople will provide maintenance for the vessels, which can be more than a $2 million investment per ship, depending on the ship and its keepers plans for 2024, according to the port authority.

The Soo Locks, in Sault St. Marie, Mich., closed for seasonal maintenance Jan. 15. The first of the Soo Locks, the Poe Lock, will reopen March 25 and another, the MacArthur Lock, will open on April 24, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District.

When the Nordika Desgagnes sailed out of the Port of Duluth-Superior on Dec. 29, it marked the latest ocean-going vessel and longest navigation season for international traffic here at 277 days. The ship was headed for Ireland with a load of beet pulp pellets.