Ship part

Ukrainians part of first foreign ship in twin ports – Duluth News Tribune

SUPERIOR — The first saltie of the 2022-23 boating season opened its watertight doors Friday to dignitaries, boat photographers and the media.

Resko, a 624-foot bulk carrier, endured 10-meter ocean waves and windy seas on Lake Superior to cross the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway and reach the Twin Ports before any other overseas ships on Wednesday.

While Great Lakes freighters dove into port and harbor this week to avoid the constant lapping, the ocean-going Resko kept going. The only ship charting Lake Superior in high winds, the Resko crawled slowly to Connors Point through the Duluth Ship Channel.

It was far from Resko’s only premiere.

Resko, a 624ft bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, sits alongside Friday April 15, 2022 at the Gavilon Grain Connors Point terminal in Superior.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“We are the first in every port,” said Waldemar Gawrs, 58, a boatswain (ships officer) in charge of hull maintenance from Poland, citing previous stops in Cleveland and Milwaukee, where he unloaded rolled steel and was also celebrated for its Arrivals.

Resko was visiting the Gavilon Grain Connors Point Terminal to load about 16,200 short tons of spring wheat and 5,400 short tons of durum wheat bound for Italy, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

Commanded by the Polish Lukasz Pionke, shy in front of the camera, the ship was built in 2010, flies the flag of the Bahamas and is staffed by five Ukrainians, a Bulgarian and the other Poles.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Pionke said of managing crew members as war broke out in Eastern Europe.

The 624ft long bulk carrier, Resko, the first saltie to visit the twin ports in 2022, hosts the ceremony.
Lucas Pionke of Poland, captain of Resko, a 624ft bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, listens to speakers during the welcoming ceremony for the first saltie at the Upper Port of Duluth on Friday, April 15, 2022 at the Gavilon Grain Connors Point Terminal in Upper .

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Mykola Bakhtin described his position aboard the ship as “an ordinary sailor”. The 35-year-old is from Mariupol, Ukraine, a city ravaged by war.

The Russian invasion of his country began after he pledged to help Resko’s crew. He sailed away from his homeland at a time when his hometown was leveled by tyrannical violence.

“I feel very bad. I come from Mariupol,” Bakhtin said. “So my family is leaving Mariupol. It’s okay. Wife, my child, a daughter, 5 years (old); now my family is in Germany , and all is fine.

Bakhtin and Gawrs stood on the main deck, at the top of the steep, temporary stairway that formed the bridge. They were registering visitors, bored by the cold.

Bakhtin wore a knit cap emblazoned with the New York Yankees logo. It’s spring and baseball has arrived everywhere, even in places where coat collars were still up.

“It’s winter all year round,” Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokesman Jayson Hron said, prompting laughs.

Hron led the program from Resko’s pilot house, which overlooked the grain loading in progress.

Senior Councilman Tylor Elm, State Senator Jennifer McEwen, DFL-Duluth, Port Authority Executive Director Deb DeLuca and Duluth City Councilman Arik Forsman spoke to the crowd and crew.

The 624ft long bulk carrier, Resko, the first saltie to visit the twin ports in 2022, hosts the ceremony.
Lucas Pionke of Poland, captain of Resko, a 624-foot bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, speaks to the media after a ceremony welcoming the first ocean-going vessel of the season to the Upper Port of Duluth on Friday, April 15, 2022 at Gavilon Terminal in Grain Connors Point to Superior.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“I’ve never been on one of them,” said Forsman, of the working freighter. “It’s fun to get inside and get a glimpse of how the mystery unfolds.”

He added a quip: “There are a lot of stairs.”

An alarm sounds momentarily disrupting the program. The captain pressed a red button to end it, and an officer in an official blue sweater rushed to the controls to reset the board.

It was nothing.

Outside on the main deck was everything else.

The 624ft long bulk carrier, Resko, the first saltie to visit the twin ports in 2022, hosts the ceremony.
Wheat enters one of the holds of the Resko, a 624ft bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, Friday, April 15, 2022 at the Gavilon Grain Connors Point terminal in Superior.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“When I get home, I don’t know how it will be,” Bakhtin said, in terms of reaction. “I just don’t know how it will be. I want to go home, of course.

He started a contract in January and, on February 24, the world beneath his feet wasn’t just watery, it was shaken.

“It’s very serious what happened in Mariupol,” he said. “Now I know guys, friends, not every guy I contact now. My house? Broken. All broken. You see news, Mariupol is all broken.

That was a lot to say.

“Sufficient?” He asked.

It was enough.

But, then, a last word.

“Ukraine will win, of course,” Bakhtin said. “Ukraine will win.”

The winner of the contest almost perfectly guesses the arrival of the first ship

The Port Authority’s annual First Ship competition, co-sponsored by Visit Duluth, saw one of its best guesses since the competition began in 1984.

Susan Stebbins, of Garrison, Minnesota, guessed 6:30 p.m. on April 13, and the freighter sailed under the overhead lift just 2 minutes later than Wednesday. She won a hotel stay in Duluth and more for guessing the closest to the arrival of the first saltie in the Twin Ports.

A total of 3,670 entries from around the world entered the annual competition.

The 624ft long bulk carrier, Resko, the first saltie to visit the twin ports in 2022, hosts the ceremony.
A longshoreman monitors the loading of wheat aboard the Resko, a 624-foot bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, Friday, April 15, 2022 at the Gavilon Grain Connors Point terminal in Superior. The vessel is loading approximately 16,200 short tons of spring wheat and 5,400 short tons of durum wheat bound for Italy.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The 624ft long bulk carrier, Resko, the first saltie to visit the twin ports in 2022, hosts the ceremony.
Wheat is loaded into one of the holds of Resko, a 624ft bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, Friday, April 15, 2022 at the Gavilon Grain Connors Point terminal in Superior. The wheat goes to Italy.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The 624ft long bulk carrier, Resko, the first saltie to visit the twin ports in 2022, hosts the ceremony.
Lucas Pionke of Poland, captain of Resko, a 624ft bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, listens to speakers during the welcoming ceremony for the first saltie at the Upper Port of Duluth on Friday, April 15, 2022 at the Gavilon Grain Connors Point Terminal in Upper .

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The 624ft long bulk carrier, Resko, the first saltie to visit the twin ports in 2022, hosts the ceremony.
A view from the deck of Resko, a 624ft bulk carrier in the Polsteam fleet, Friday April 15, 2022 at the Gavilon Grain Connors Point terminal in Superior.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune