DULUTH, MN-- The sound of the lift bridge welcoming a ship to port is common in the Twin Ports during the warmer months.
Now, the University of Wisconsin Superior is studying whether it could happen year-round.
Deb Deluca, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority director, said this study would influence how they plan for the future.
“We look to the outcomes as important in terms of our planning into the future because the results could have implications for business development, infrastructure investment, and for policy decisions,” said DeLuca.
The study will look at decreasing ice on the lakes due to climate change and the construction of a new lock in the Soo Locks.
UWS Professor of Transportation and Logistics Richard Stewart said these changes could mean a longer shipping season.
"We may in the next 20-30 years be able to operate our ships not 10 months of the year but 11 or 12 months out of the year, especially because we won't have the restriction of the Po lock,” said Stewart.
The study is also looking at the impacts of a year-round season, including more ships on the water.
Stewart said planning now is vital for the future.
"Our highways are crowded. Railroads are crowded. We have the ability to move far, far more cargo on this Great Lakes marine highway system without being crowded,” said Stewart.
According to DeLuca, a future with year-round shipping could also mean smooth sailing for the local economy.
"This information will help us understand if we can move to a year-round system which would then grow cargo through the port, grow tonnage through the port, provide opportunities for alternative supply chain solutions which just makes our region more competitive,” said DeLuca.
The shipping season currently runs from March through January.
The study is expected to take several years.