March 22 - The Port of Hamilton, Canada, has marked the beginning of the 2017 commercial shipping season by welcoming the Calusa Coast tug vessel and its specialised tank barge, the first vessel of the season.

The Calusa Coast is owned by Dann Marine Towing, and the barge, Delaware, is owned by Texas, USA-based Kirby Offshore Marine.

Earlier this week, Calusa Coast captain Gary Kafcsak was presented with the ceremonial top hat. "2017 is the 70th year of the Port of Hamilton's Top Hat Ceremony," said Vicki Gruber, Hamilton port's harbour master. "This presentation is a gesture of respect and welcome. We are looking forward to a successful 2017 shipping season, and are pleased to welcome Captain Kafcsak here to help get the season underway."

The farthest inland port of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system, the Port of Duluth-Superior, has also marked the beginning of the 2017 season, with the first US flag lakers expected to depart today.

The Roger Blough will leave its berth at the Clure Public Marine Terminal and depart beneath Duluth's Aerial Bridge on route to the CN Docks in Two Harbors to load iron ore.  Another Great Lakes Fleet vessel, the Philip R. Clarke, will also head to Two Harbors to take on its first cargo of the season. Both vessels, with deliveries to make to steel mills on the Lower Lakes, will proceed across Lake Superior toward Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.