Page header image of an ore ship on Lake Superior

Maritime Activities

Connected to the lake. Committed to its admirers.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority supports the community and partners on a variety of activities designed to inspire residents and visitors to learn more about the maritime industry. In addition, we lead projects that enhance the social, environmental and economic well-being of our region.

First Ship Contest

A decades-long tradition, the Port Authority hosts a First Ship Ceremony to welcome the earliest oceangoing vessel into the Port of Duluth-Superior at the start of each navigation season. We also partner with Visit Duluth on a First Ship contest in which entrants predict the specific day and time the first visiting “saltie” passes beneath Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge and into the harbor. The prize package includes luxurious accommodations, delicious meals and tickets to area attractions.

Great Waters Research Collaborative

The Great Waters Research Collaborative is an innovative collaboration of the maritime industry, federal agencies, NGOs and academia. The goal? Eliminating ship-mediated invasive species in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The Port Authority supports this research and testing services in an effort to accelerate the development and installation of effective ballast water treatment systems on ships that visit this inland waterway.

To that end, the Great Waters Research Collaborative has established research capabilities at three scales-bench, land-based and shipboard – each dedicated to addressing specific evaluation objectives, with protocols as consistent with International Maritime Organization (IMO) and state/federal requirements as practicable. The project’s lab space and testing center is located in the Duluth-Superior Harbor and is being jointly coordinated by scientists from the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin. Project management is provided by the University of Wisconsin – Lake Superior Research Institute. A 20-member advisory panel (which includes the Port Authority’s director of government and environmental affairs) provides oversight.

Harbor Technical Advisory Committee (HTAC)

The HTAC meets quarterly convening a large group of stakeholders, including representatives from the Port Authority, to discuss and formulate recommendations addressing economic and environmental issues relevant to the Duluth-Superior harbor. Common topics include dredged material management, environmental restoration and enhancement activities and land use development in the St. Louis River Bay and Estuary.

National Maritime Day | May 22

The United States Congress first declared National Maritime Day in 1933, and it’s been celebrated ever since in Duluth-Superior and throughout the nation by merchant mariners and maritime industry stakeholders. The Duluth-Superior Maritime Club hosts a commemorative luncheon and seafarers’ memorial service each year. This combined salute honors the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Merchant Marine as well as those who continue to safeguard the freedom of this nation and its trade corridors since 1775. It salutes also those who executed the largest sealift the world has ever known during World War II. Finally, it honors the maritime industry and its benefits to Americans in terms of transportation, trade, national security, employment, recreation and quality of life.

Duluth-Superior Maritime Club

The Duluth-Superior Maritime Club was chartered as the Propeller Club in 1933 and continues to be an active network of maritime industry stakeholders from the Twin Ports. In recent years, the Port Authority has taken a strong stewardship role in enhancing the club’s programming and recruitment efforts.

Today, membership in the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization totals nearly 90, including port tenants, terminal operators, public officials, maritime engineers, pilots and others, all focused on promoting harbor improvements and advocating for maritime interests along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway.

St. Louis River Quest

Now approaching its 30th year, St. Louis River Quest is an unforgettable annual experience for 1,500 sixth graders with hands-on learning aboard the Vista Star and on land at the DECC. Each spring, students learn about the St. Louis River ecosystem and related industrial and recreational activities, ranging from pollution prevention and habitat restoration to industrial water reuse, sustainable forestry and commercial shipping. Sessions also cover hypothermia, rip currents and life jackets/boating safety.

River Quest sponsors work directly with educators to align resource materials with Minnesota and Wisconsin science and social studies standards to make the experience an even more effective teaching tool. More than 25,000 students have participated in River Quest since its inception in 1993 through the partnership of the Port Authority and other waterfront business leaders.

For more information, contact Jayson Hron, Port Authority director of communication and marketing at

Tall Ships

In recent years, the Port Authority has been a local sponsor for visiting tall-masted sailing vessels from around the world. With sails flashing in the summer sun, it’s always a fabulous spectacle and a nod to the port’s masted maritime heritage. For more information about sailing on a tall ship, contact the American Sail Training Association. For more information on festivals in Duluth, contact Tall Ships Duluth or Visit Duluth.

Gales of November

Now in its fourth decade, the annual Gales of November program hosted by the Lake Superior Marine Museum Association caters to a wide range of enthusiasts from the nerdiest boatnerd to those with merely a small interest in maritime matters. The event offers an evening gala and two days of presentations, discussions and time to connect with others who share an interest in Lake Superior and its maritime heritage. Plus, there’s an opportunity to win a ride aboard a Great Lakes freighter.