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      First commercial ship could go through Soo Locks at midnight

      The Soo Locks opened for the shipping season on March 25. No commercial ships have passed through yet this season.

      The small convoy of vessels traveling across Lake Superior could make it to the Soo Locks by midnight.

      The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw is getting some help creating a path in the ice for the two commercial vessels. The Canadian Coast Guard sent one of its cutters to assist Wednesday.

      Coast Guard officials said Thursday morning the group is making better time, traveling about 10 knots per hour, which is about 12 miles.

      Wednesday the two commercial ships traveled about 7-miles in 24-hours due to thick ice and changing wind. ã??

      The Soo Locks opened for the season on March 25. No commercial vessels have passed through yet, which is highly unusual.

      The U.S. Coast Guard has spent 8,300 hours on ice-breaking missions on the Great Lakes so far this season.

      "The Great Lakes have reached near-record ice coverage this winter season, and it has caused a major slow down for commercial shippers and brought long rigorous hours for our ice-breaking cutter crews. We expect to be ice breaking well into the month of May," said Cmdr. Matt ten Berge, Coast Guard 9th District aids-to-navigation and domestic ice supervisor.