THUNDER BAY – It was a race for the top hat between a pair of ocean-going vessels.
In the end, Capt. Sergey Kachnov of MV Hanse Gate captured the crown, edging out MV Ludogorets by about a half an hour on Thursday morning.
It’s the first time in five years the first to salties of the season arrived on the same day, let alone within the same hour.
Kachnov, who has piloted the ship for six years, said it was an honour to be awarded the top hat, a tradition at many maritime ports throughout northern North America.
“This is very nice and I’m really surprised,” he said on Friday morning, the sun just beginning to peak its way over the Richardson Port Terminal as the ship’s hatches were loaded with Canadian wheat bound for Algeria, a trip he estimated will take between two and three weeks to complete.
“I’m very pleased because this is the first time in my life for this ceremony. I did not expect my vessel would be first in this port this year.”
It wasn’t smooth sailing to get to Thunder Bay, he added.
“There was a lot of ice in April in the lake. But we’re here and loading is in progress.”
The captain and his first engineer were given ceremonial gifts from the city, presented by Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds.
Kachnov also continued a long-standing tradition, signing the inside of the top hat, adding his signature to dozens of other captains who had come before him.
William Hryb, managing director and president of Thunder Bay Shipping, said this year’s arrival is particularly special.
“It’s the 60th anniversary of the St. Lawrence Seaway and it’s a great way to celebrate the event with first ship here at Richardson’s elevator. It happens to be the second year in a row Richardson’s elevator got the honour,” Hryb said.
He added the ice made it tough travels, adding about six hours to the final leg of the journey from Sault Ste. Marie, normally an 18-hour trek.
“But with the help of the Canadian ice breakers they made it here unscathed and got into the berth. We started loading yesterday and we should be finished later this evening and on our way to Algeria,” he said.
“It marks the opening of international shipping in the Port of Thunder Bay. The Port of Thunder Bay has garnered a tremendous reputation world-wide.”
MV Hanse Gate is operated by Sweden’s Messrs Brochert KB.