Shipping is back on the Great Lakes, with the first ship arriving in Goderich late Monday night - though it had battle through thick ice to get there.

The Captain Henry Jackman was asssisted by icebreakers to get to the port around 9:30 p.m., as there is still a lot of ice out on the lakes.

That means Captain Neil Olsen dons the Goderich Port Authority's 'Top Hat' for the season. The presentation ceremony for the captain of the first spring ship to arrive was held early Tuesday morning.

Olsen says the usual five hour trip from Sarnia to Goderich took eight hours, with ice ridges about 2.5 to three metres thick along the way, and even the icebreaker leading them got stuck a few times and they had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.

But about eight kilometres offshore of Goderich, Olsen says things cleared up and the ship only required a tugboat to help bring them into port.

The Algowood also arrived Monday night and will load up once the Henry Jackman has departed for Milwaukee with its load of road salt from Compass Minerals-Sifto Salt Mine.

Icebreakers will continue to be needed to assist ships for several weeks until the wind picks up and temperatures rise, helping to break up the ice cover.

Businesses like the Goderich Elevators and Compass Minerals are very eager to see the return of boat traffic as it takes hundreds of trucks to carry what one lake freighter can.

In 2014 the first ship to dock in the spring didn’t arrive into Goderich until April 9th, but the average opening day over the past 10 winters has been March 20th.

Shipping ended on Lake Huron on Feb. 20, 2015.