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      Dozens of ships at Soo Locks await ice cutter convoy to cross Lake Superior

      I t's been almost a month since the Soo Locks opened for business, but traffic is still moving at a historically slow pace.

      T here are currently more than 40 ships waiting to get through the locks and at this point the flow of traffic is at Mother Nature's mercy.

      D ozens of ships are lined up throughout the St. Mary's River system, waiting for their turn to go west across Lake Superior.

      "T he next outbound convoy is probably going to be Sunday, but that is a guess," Jim Peach, Soo Locks Assistant Area Engineer said.

      D ue to the thickness of the ice , it takes two Coast Guard ice cutters to escort ships carrying iron ore and coal.

      "T hey can only come five or six at a time ," Peach said.

      T hat can take more than a week to do so.

      B y the time they get to the Soo Locks, many of the ships and their crews are fatigued.

      "S ome of them are running out of fuel so were fueling them ," Dennis Campbell, Soo Locks Chief Lock Master said.

      A nd because the trips are so long many of them are running out of supplies.

      "W e've actually given permission to them to load supplies across our piers , which is very unusual , that's not what we consider the piers to be for ," Peach said.

      F or ships going south , their travels will likely be a lot smoother while passing through Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

      B ut lock engineers anticipate problems with ice on Lake Superior until mid-May.

      "T his is one for the record books as far as anybody living memory as for anybody on our staff this is the first time with experienced this much delay ," Peach said.