Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News Archive

Copyright All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

* Report News

Port to spend nearly $100,000 to upgrade dock, lure business

1/31  - Duluth, Mn. - The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is joining in the chase for federal economic stimulus funds.

Commissioners have unanimously authorized spending $98,500 to help shore up a dock that could one day be used to lure additional business to the port. The funds approved Thursday will be used to hire AMI Consulting Engineers, which will develop a plan to fix the port's eroding Garfield D Dock. The Duluth firm will draw up plans and bid specifications that could be used to procure federal dollars for the project.

"We will rule ourselves out if our plan is not shovel-ready," said Commissioner Tom Clure, stressing the need to have detailed plans in hand before seeking federal funding.

In order to make a successful run at available federal stimulus money, Robert Maki, the authority's legal counsel, advised commissioners that they must be prepared to accept bids and let a contract within 30 days of funds being allocated for the project.

Chad Scott, an engineer and principal partner of AMI, estimated the total project cost could be in the neighborhood of $7.5 million.

As is, Garfield D is not a viable dock, according to Adolph Ojard, executive director of the port authority. The dock face has crumbled and collapsed into the water in places. The project would involve installing new sheet piling and proper infill. It would also require extensive dredging to restore the slip to seaway depth.

Ojard said the port authority has had several discussions with Essar Steel, an Indian company that recently began construction on a facility to produce slab steel near Nashwauk. Duluth could one day be handling 1.5 million tons of slab steel in addition to the iron ore pellets it already handles, potentially doubling the port authority's annual revenues, Ojard said.

Duluth is out of dock capacity to accommodate any substantial new business at present, he said. Restoring Garfield to a usable state could also open the way for a terminal handling clays used to produce coated papers. Ojard said it may even prove a suitable site for shipping container traffic, should containerized cargo begin to move on the Great Lakes.

Not all port authority commissioners were immediately sold on the idea of hiring engineers to develop plans, however.

"It's not clear to me that this is something we should support," said Commissioner Lowell Hellervik, suggesting that the dock could sit around for years without a solid plan in place for its future use.

Ultimately, Hellervik voted in support of the engineering work at Garfield D, but only after receiving assurances that port authority staff would develop and present a detailed marketing plan shortly.

Duluth News Tribune


Mackinaw breaks ice in St. Clair River's South Channel

1/31  Port Huron, Mich. - The USCG icebreaker Mackinaw departed Port Huron Friday morning and made her way down the St. Clair River. In the lower St. Clair River the Mackinaw took the South Channel rather then the usual Cut-Off Channel. The Cut-Off Channel was added in 1962 to give freighters an easier router to enter Lake St. Clair and the South channel was all but abandoned by commercial vessels. Today the South Channel is used by pleasure boaters.

The Mackinaw was likely breaking ice in the channel to help keep the ice flowing down river moving into Lake St. Clair. The lower St. Clair River can become choked with ice as the current carries ice from the upper portions of the river into the twisting channel where it piles up. Icebreakers routinely work this area of the river to keep navigation open and to prevent flooding.

Mackinaw continued downbound and entered Lake Erie for Cleveland.

Reported by: Mark Keaser


Port Reports - January 31

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algowood finished loading at Sifto Salt and departed early Friday morning. Algosteel shifted over from the new harbor dock and was on the Sifto dock at 8 a.m. Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley was in port for ice breaking duties.

Eastern Lake Erie - Dave Otterman
Algoeast arrived in Nanticoke at 10 p.m. Thursday.  She was assisted by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon who then went to anchor to await Algoeast return trip to Sarnia, expected late on Saturday.  Heavy ice and ridging is reported south and west of Long Point by both vessels.

Montreal - Rene Beauchamp
The new tanker Algocanada made her maiden voyage on the St. Lawrence River January 24 bound for Montreal from Quebec City.


Updates - January 31

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated: Chief Wawatam, Henry Ford II and Cliffs Victory


Today in Great Lakes History - January 31

The MANZZUTTI was launched January 31, 1903, as a.) J S KEEFE (Hull#203) at Buffalo, New York by the Buffalo Dry Dock Co.

January 31, 1930 - While the Grand Trunk carferry MADISON was leading the way across Lake Michigan to Grand Haven, she was struck from behind by her sister ship GRAND RAPIDS.

Data from: Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Dry docks buoyed by fiscal plan

1/30  - St. Catharines, Ontario - The billions of dollars expected to flow out of Ottawa to stimulate Canada's sagging economy could be good news for shipbuilders and dock workers. Tuesday's federal budget includes $175 million for shipbuilders to construct 98 new, small coast guard ships and the refitting of 40 older vessels.

That's good news for the industry, said John Dewar, vice-president of strategic services for Upper Lakes Marine and Industrial Inc., the parent company of Seaway Marine and Industrial Inc., which runs the dry docks in Port Weller.

"I'm very encouraged by this," Dewar said."Anything that assists shipbuilding in this country is a good thing."

Dewar said the company is still in a bidding process for a previously announced federal shipbuilding project, and will look keenly at the budget as a possible source of new work. He said the new coast guard vessels are "a little smaller" than the size of ships the dry docks usually handles, but said the 40 refits might be well-suited for the Port Weller facility.

The docks employs hundreds of people depending on the type of project in the works. For a smaller project, 80 to 100 people are needed. But if a ship is built from scratch, between 200 and 400 workers are required, Dewar said.

St. Catharines Standard


Diamond Queen to return to service this Spring

1/30  - Detroit, Mi – On Saturday morning, Jan. 24, it was found that the Detroit passenger vessel Diamond Queen had settled to the bottom of the Rouge River at her winter dock at Gaelic Tugboat Company.

Under the direction of the underwriter's surveyor John Wellington, and the cooperation of the U. S. Coast Guard, the vessel has been re-floated. Equipment from Faust Corporation, Vac-All, and commercial divers were used for the three-day project, while the daytime temperature hovered at about 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The investigation of the sinking continues as no failures of the vessels hull or piping have been found. The cleanup of the vessel began Thursday and the Diamond Queen is expected to be ready for service in the spring.


Water levels up, but still short of long-term averages

1/30  – This past month the water supply to the Lake Superior basin was near the long-term average while the water supply to the Lakes Michigan-Huron basin was above the long-term average. Lake Superior is currently 4 inches below its chart datum level. The level of Lake Superior is expected to fall in February. Currently, the Lake Superior level is about 8 inches below its long-term average beginning of February level, but is 2 inches above the level recorded a year ago. This past month the level of Lake Superior fell by 2 inches, while on average the level falls by 3 inches in January.

The level of Lakes Michigan-Huron fell by 1/2 inch this January, while on average the level falls by 1 inch in January. The level of Lakes Michigan-Huron is now about 12 inches below its long-term average beginning-of-February level, and is 10 inches higher than it was a year ago.

Currently Lakes Michigan-Huron is at its chart datum level. The level of Lakes Michigan-Huron is also expected to decline in February.

More information

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Port Reports - January 30

Goderich - Dale Baechler
With no vessel loading at Sifto Salt, Algowood remained under the spout on Thursday. Algosteel remained in the new harbor, as she has been for two days.


Digital switch in alert signals coming Feb. 1

1/30  - The U.S. Coast Guard is reminding commercial and recreational boaters that starting Feb. 1, search and rescue organizations will receive distress alert signals only from digital 406-MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons. Satellites will no longer process analog signals transmitting on 121.5 or 243.0 MHz.

Digital beacons will provide more accurate information to rescuers and cause fewer false alarms. The change does not affect traditional marine radio broadcast. Click here for more information

Reported by: Duluth News Tribune


Updates - January 30

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated: Chief Wawatam, Henry Ford II and Cliffs Victory


Today in Great Lakes History - January 30

The ELMDALE was launched in 1909, as a.) CLIFFORD F MOLL (Hull#56) at Ecorse, Michigan by the Great Lakes Engineering Works.

The CHIEF WAWATAM was held up in the ice for a period of three weeks. On January 30, 1927, she went aground at North Graham Shoal in the Straits. She was later dry-docked at Great Lakes Engineering Works in Detroit where her forward propeller and after port wheel were replaced.

January 30, 1911 - The second PERE MARQUETTE 18 arrived Ludington, Michigan on her maiden voyage.

On 30 January 1881, ST ALBANS (wooden propeller passenger/package freight vessel, 135 foot, 435 tons, built in 1869, at Cleveland, Ohio) was carrying general merchandise, flour, cattle and 22 passengers in Lake Michigan. She rammed a cake of ice that filled the hole it made in her hull. She rushed for shore, but as the ice melted, the vessel filled with water. She sank 8 miles from Milwaukee. The crew and passengers made it to safety in the lifeboats. Her loss was valued at $35,000.

On 30 January 2000, crew began the removal of the four Hulett Ore Unloaders on Whiskey Island in Cleveland.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Ship trapped in ice finally makes it to port

1/29  - Matane, Que. – Wednesday morning the rail ferry George A Lebel was still trying to reach her berth at Matane, Quebec. The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Des Groseilliers was working around her trying to free the ferry. The George A Lebel became trapped in the ice off Matane, Quebec, on Sunday along with two other vessels which have since been freed.

The Lebel was finally able to reach her dock Wednesday afternoon. Des Groseilliers went out and escorted the Victoriaborg into Matane.

Des Groseilliers was brought from Quebec to help free the vessels after the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Terry Fox developed an engine problem. The Matane-Baie Comeau, Godbout ferry Camille Marcoux left Matane for Baie Comeau, Quebec, Tuesday and returned without encountering any problems.

The Terry Fox returned to Quebec City for repairs and crew change.

Reported by: Kent Malo


Ice breakers keep busy on lower Lakes

1/29  - While the majority of Great Lakes shipping has stopped, the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard remain busy escorting tankers around the lakes.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw escorted the Algonova upbound through the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers. Algonova encountered heavy ice on Lake St. Clair and required close escort by the Mackinaw. Algonova was headed to Sarnia while Mackinaw tied up in Port Huron.

Downbound in the river system was the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon escorting Algoeast. The pair fought through heavy ice in the lower St. Clair River and entered Lake St. Clair around 6 p.m.

On Lake Erie, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley escorted Algosar into Cleveland about 5 p.m. The Risley departed Cleveland and headed back to the Pelee Passage, likely to wait for the Algoeast.

Reported by John Lampton


Congressman works to expand short sea shipping

1/29  - Congressman John M. McHugh (NY-Pierrepont Manor) introduced legislation that would provide the tax incentives necessary to increase coastal and inland freight transportation, including through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Port of Oswego.

H.R. 528, the Short Sea Shipping Act of 2009, would exempt specific non-bulk commercial cargo from the Harbor Maintenance Tax.

"For too long, the HMT has served as a barrier to the development of a robust and vital short sea shipping industry in the United States, which would have significant economic and environmental benefits," McHugh said. "Providing this exemption to the HMT would give cargo shippers an incentive to move cargo via water rather than by trucks, combating high congestion, improving the flow of commerce, and reducing air pollution generated by ground transportation."

"Across the country, enacting this legislation would spur significant activity in the shipbuilding industry, creating many employment opportunities. An example in the 23rd Congressional District would be the potential for significant expansion at the Port of Oswego, which could result in millions of dollars in economic impact and the creation of dozens of jobs," he said.

The administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, Terry Johnson, said, "I am pleased that Congressman McHugh is moving forward with this important legislation. Removing the Harbor Maintenance Tax on non-bulk cargo in this way will foster the development of short sea shipping operations throughout the Great Lakes Seaway System and elsewhere."

McHugh's legislation would exempt from the HMT non-bulk commercial cargo that is loaded at a port in the U.S. mainland and unloaded at another port in the U.S. mainland after transport solely by coastal or river route or unloaded at a port in Canada located in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System.

Additionally, the bill's exemption would apply to non-bulk commercial cargo that is loaded at a port in Canada located in the Great Lakes Seaway System and unloaded at a port in the U.S. mainland.

The HMT is a levy that is imposed on the value of cargo that is imported to a port within the U.S. or that is transported between U.S. ports.

The tax, which is assessed at a rate of 0.125 percent of the cargo value, including passengers, is assessed only once on cargo that is transported between one U.S. port and another (either at the point of departure or arrival, but not both).

However, cargo that is carried from a foreign port may be taxed twice, upon arrival at the initial U.S. port and again if transported to another U.S. port aboard a different vessel.

McHugh's legislation was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Reported by: Oswego County Business


Coast Guard stands ready for ice breaking in Fairport

1/29  - Fairport, Oh. - Unless it asked, the U.S. Coast Guard has no plans to break the ice accumulating at the mouth of the Grand River on Lake Erie in Ohio.

The federal agency has done so in the past, using the ice breaker Neah Bay to crush a path through the Grand River's ice up as far upstream as the ship turning basin in Grand River Village. This path has helped take the pressure off when the ice begins to move as a result of seasonal melting. It can contribute to lessening the impact of flooding in the lower Grand River.

The Coast Guard must first be asked by local authorities through the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, however. "If there is a danger of flooding the Neah Bay will get underway if requested," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Will Mitchell, an agency spokesman.

Ice continues to develop and thicken in Lake Erie and its tributaries as temperatures continue to remain well below freezing and the seasonal average. These factors could lead to possible ice jams and the resulting flooding.

Fairport Harbor will seek help if the village believes flooding is probable, said the community's administrator, Thomas A. Hilston.  "I'm not sure if we will. If we have an elongated thaw than the problem is less but if we see a rapid thaw then the problem is more acute," Hilston said. "We do monitor it but right now it is impossible to say if that will occur."

Reported by: The News Herald


Updates - January 29

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 29

The BUCKEYE was launched January 29, 1910, as the straight decker a.) LEONARD B MILLER (Hull#447) at Cleveland, Ohio by the American Ship Building Co.

JOHN P REISS (Hull#377) was also launched this date in 1910, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co.

January 29, 1987 - The BADGER almost capsized at her dock due to a broken water intake pipe.

In 1953, RICHARD M MARSHALL (steel propeller freighter, 643 foot, 10,606 gross tons) was launched in Bay City, Michigan at Defoe's shipyard (Hull #424). Later she was named JOSEPH S WOOD in 1957, JOHN DYKSTRA in 1966, and BENSON FORD in 1983. She was scrapped in 1987 at Recife, Brazil.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Ships freed Tuesday from St. Lawrence ice

1/28  - Matane, Que. –   A cruise ship carrying 300 passengers that became lodged in thick ice in the St. Lawrence River for more than 30 hours was freed Tuesday with the help of an ice breaking vessel, officials said.

The CTMA-Vacancier was one of four ships, which together carried about 500 people, that became trapped in ice near Montreal since the weekend but all had been freed as of Tuesday, officials said.

"We're free now, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted," said cruise ship passenger James Gray, who said the tour group of skiers ended up having a 24-hour party on board. "Musicians have been playing guitar, there are poets, people dancing, good food and wine, and we're surrounded by stunning scenery," Gray said by phone from the ship.

Leonard Arsenault, a spokesman for the CTMA-Vacancier, said the passengers left Montreal on Sunday for a weeklong trip. But ice quickly closed in around the vessel Monday near Matane, Quebec. "Because it was so cold and windy, the wind blew ice from Montreal down into the St. Lawrence River at high speeds and it became very thick, which is why the ship became stuck there for so long," Arsenault said.

In addition to the cruise ship, the passenger ferry Camille Marcoux and the rail ferry Georges Alexandre Lebel were all stuck for a time. Icebreakers on the scene were the Canadian Coast Guard Ships Terry Fox and Des Groseilliers.

Reported by: The Associated Press


Erie Shipbuilding lays off 100-plus; plant closes for at least 2 weeks

1/28  - Erie, Pa. – Erie Shipbuilding LLC has temporarily closed its doors and laid off its work force, estimated at more than 100 people, as the company scrambles to find financing.

In a Jan. 21 letter, Ned Smith, the company's chief executive, informed Ray Schreckengost, executive director of the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, that the plant would be closed for at least two weeks. The company, which leases space from the port, is midway through construction of an 840-foot articulated tug barge that's expected to cost more than $50 million.

"At this time, we are working with a third party for the interim financing and I believe we are getting close to an agreement, but in the meantime we are under a huge cash flow shortage which has prevented us from ordering materials," Smith said in his letter.

Smith blames the problem on the tight credit supply and the failure of a $2.5 million state grant to materialize after it was announced in August 2006. That grant, which will be paid to the Port Authority, is "supposed to be sent any day," Schreckengost said.

"It's nobody's fault," he continued. "The state is just way behind."

Smith, who could not be reached for comment, expressed confidence in his letter that the layoffs will not be permanent. "We believe this shutdown is temporary and will get the interim financing in place," he wrote.Smith went on to stress that the temporary shutdown shouldn't foreshadow a permanent closure.

He wrote: "To date, the owners have invested a significant amount of money in the shipyard and it is on the verge of becoming a first-class facility, which will be in Erie for a long time to come. However, there are always bumps in the road and we are doing our best to smooth them out in this difficult market." Schreckengost said he wasn't surprised by news of the shutdown. "Look at the economy," he said.

Reported by: Erie Times News


Great Lakes shipping annually saves users $3.6 billion

1/28 - Cleveland, Ohio- Shipping on the Great Lakes saves its customers more than $3.6 billion a year when compared to the next least costly mode of transportation. That is the conclusion of a report prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The soon-to-be-released report tracked the movement of 11 commodities on the Great Lakes, shipments of which totaled 173 million tons in 2006. These cargos represent 10 percent of all U.S. domestic waterborne commerce.

The Corps study also finds Great Lakes shipping a major source of jobs. There are 44,000 jobs directly related to maritime transportation. Another 54,000 jobs in the mining industry and 138,000 jobs in the steel industry are dependent on Great Lakes shipping. Those industries, the study stresses, then sustain hundreds of thousands of additional jobs in manufacturing industries.

Great Lakes shipping also outperforms the land-based modes of transportation in fuel efficiency and environmental impact. A Great Lakes freighter travels 607 miles on one gallon of fuel on a per-ton-of-cargo basis. A truck travels only 59 miles; a train, just 202 miles.

In terms of emissions, Great Lakes vessels are vastly superior to the land-based modes, producing 90 percent fewer emissions than trucks, and 70 percent fewer emissions than trains.

The Corps study also addresses the critical needs of maintaining the Great Lakes navigation system. Topping the priority list is restoring existing locks and building a new Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The Corps has estimated that a 30-day unscheduled closure of the Soo Locks would cost industry $160 million. Without the Poe Lock, America's steel industry would be cut off from its major source of iron ore.

Clearing the dredging backlog is also a major priority. The backlog of sediment that must be removed to restore ports and waterways to their proper depth has reached an unprecedented level: 17 million cubic yards. When harbors and channels shoal in, ships have to light load, which increases transportation costs because more trips are required. The Corps estimates it will need more than $200 million to clear the backlog of sediment.

"This Corps study confirms that Great Lakes shipping is a lynch pin of the U.S. economy," said James H.I. Weakley, President of Lake Carriers' Association.

"Great Lakes shipping is also the greenest form of transportation,"continued Weakley. "We have, however, as a nation, neglected Great Lakes shipping. The dredging crisis is unconscionable. Imagine what the savings would be if ships could carry full loads. The second Poe-sized lock was first authorized more than 20 years ago, yet remains unbuilt. The hoped-for recovery of our economy will not be as robust if we do not invest in Great Lakes shipping."

Weakley addressed these and other issues at a January 22 hearing of the House of Representatives' Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. He told legislators that "no other project is better suited for inclusion in an economic stimulus package than construction of a second Poe-sized lock. It will ensure the continued free flow of raw materials on the Great Lakes. This single project has national security, job creation, and transportation efficiency aspects."

In closing his testimony Weakley urged Congress to carefully weigh the benefits of investing in the Great Lakes/Seaway infrastructure. "We need a second Poe-sized lock. We need another heavy icebreaker on the Lakes. Our regional and national economies depend on our ability to efficiently and reliably move raw materials and finished goods."

Reported by: Lake Carriers Association


International shipping down at Twin Ports

1/28 -  Superior, Wis. - Half the number of international ships visited the Twin Ports in the shipping season that just ended. Fourth-quarter global economic troubles cut the number of ships from 158 a year ago to 69 this season.

Duluth, Minn. Seaway Port Authority Director Adolph Ojard says the world economy has the shipping industry in uncharted territory, but he's hoping for a recovery by the third-quarter of this year. Domestic and international shipping tonnage was down five percent at the Duluth-Superior port from 2007. That reflects a similar drop of the total traffic through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

A total of 1,126 ships called on the Duluth-Superior port in the past year, making it the busiest port in the Great Lakes.

Reported by: Wisconsin Public Radio


Port Reports - January 28

Goderich - Dale Baechler
After a full day delay, Algowood started loading at noon on Tuesday. The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon had tied up in the new harbor overnight, then headed out to assist Algosteel who arrived off the piers at 2 p.m. She was expected to wait in the new harbor until Algowood departs from Sifto Salt early Wednesday morning.

Detroit - Ken Borg
Cuyahoga was backing down the Rouge River Tuesday after unloading a partial load of salt at the Morton dock in Detroit. She backed down the Short Cut Canal and out into the Detroit River about 11:25 a.m. In the ice free area off the Rouge,  she backed down the Detroit River to Canadian Rock Salt Co. in Windsor to get another load for Morton.

Eastern Lake Erie - Dave Otterman
Algonova passed Long Point at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. She was joined a few minutes later by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw who was attempting to take the lead in heavy ice conditions. Their destination is Sarnia with an ETA of 12 hours for South East Shoal in western Lake Erie.


New Great Lakes cruise ship expected to appear in 2009

1/28 - Several travel organizations are advertising 8-day cruises on the Great Lakes for the 2009 season. The trips are planned aboard the Clelia II, a 290-foot vessel that is receiving an extensive refurbishing prior to the season. The ship features 44 staterooms for up to 88 guests, and carries a crew of 50. The vessel is registered in the Bahamas.

Clelia II is operated by Travel Dynamics, an American firm with a long history in the Great Lakes. The company brought Le Levant in to the region for several years and also the Orion cruise ship before she left for a new home in Australia.

Most of the trips are between Toronto and Duluth, with stops in places like Port Weller, Welland Canal, Niagara Falls, Manitoulin Island, Mackinac Island, Hancock/Houghton and Thunder Bay. Other trips stop at Windsor, Port Elgin, Charlevoix and Traverse City. Many of the trips are based on a theme and are geared to the 50 and over crowd.

Other cruise ships expected on the Great Lakes during the 2009 season are the Pearl Mist, a 2008-09 new build, along with Grande Mariner, Grande Caribe and Niagara Prince. The latter three have been regular visitors to the lakes.


Updates - January 28

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 28

SELKIRK SETTLER (Hull#256) was launched January 28, 1983, at Govan, Scotland by Govan Shipbuilding Ltd.

At 4:00 a.m. on 28 January 1879, the ferry SARNIA was discovered to be on fire while lying at Fitzgerald's yard in Port Huron. All of the cabins were destroyed although the fire department had the fire out within an hour. About $3,000 damage was done. She was in the shipyard to be remodeled and to have a stern wheel installed. Arson was suspected.

On 28 January 1889, The Port Huron Times announced that the Toledo & Saginaw Transportation Company went out of business and sold all of its vessel and its shipyard. The shipyard went to Curtis & Brainard along with the PAWNEE and MIAMI. The BUFFALO, TEMPEST, BRAINARD and ORTON went to Thomas Lester. The C F CURTIS, FASSET, REED and HOLLAND went to R. C. Holland. The DAYTON went to J. A. Ward and M. P. Lester. The TROY and EDWARDS were sold, but the new owners were not listed.

Data from: Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Heavy ice traps ships in St. Lawrence

1/27 - Matane, Que. –  At 1 p.m. the CTMA Vacancier was underway heading north, out of the Ice field. "The ship is now moving slowly to a new direction — to Gaspe instead of Matane," said Nathalie Letendre, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Coast Guard in Quebec.

Letendre said a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Terry Fox, which was sent to help move the ship but then got stuck in the ice itself, was also moving again, albeit very slowly.

"The Terry Fox is moving now, but another icebreaker will arrive at around 5 p.m. to help get the ships unstuck," she said, adding the winds and tides were expected to be working in their favor on Wednesday.

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Degroseilliers was east bound on the St Lawrence about 50 nautical miles west of the CCGS Terry Fox.

"We're optimistic all the ships will be moving by tomorrow." A third vessel — a rail ferry called the Georges Alexandre Lebel — was also stuck in the heavy ice Tuesday. Company spokeswoman Julie Levesque said 11 employees on the ship, which is carrying aluminum and lumber, have been stranded since Sunday. Levesque said they have plenty of supplies and their own cabins on board.

The Terry Fox icebreaker had also unsuccessfully attempted to free the ship, which was heading toward the port of Matane.

Original Report - A cruise ship with about 300 people on board is one of three vessels ensnared in thick ice at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River abeam of Matane, Quebec. North West winds are pushing the ice to the South shore and the tides are keeping the ice from drifting downriver.

Attempts to free the cruise ship CTMA-Vacancier and the rail ferry George Alexandre Lebel from the thick ice have so far proved unsuccessful. The Lebel is sister ship to the Carrier Princess, former Incan Superior. The Vacancier left Montreal on January 24 and arrived off Matane about 8 p.m. on the 25th and has been stuck ever since.

The powerful Canadian Coast Guard Ship Terry Fox was sent to free the two ships, but was reported to have become trapped in the ice outside the Matane port and having trouble with one of her engines.

Filmmaker James Gray, who's on board the Vacancier," says the Terry Fox is stuck and "having a lot of trouble" trying to open the way. Gray, who says is making a documentary about the experience, also told CTV News everyone is doing fine and "it's turning into a 24-hour party."

In all, about 500 people are aboard the three vessels. The Terry Fox did manage to free the ferry Camille Marcoux on Monday after it became tra p ped in the ice the previous day with 113 passengers on board.

The Vacancier usually operates one-week cruises in the summer months. It was transporting 300 passengers to the Gaspe Peninsula from Montreal for a week-long ski trip in the Chic-Choc mountains when it became stuck in the ice.

The Gaspe Peninsula is on the eastern tip of Quebec and north of New Brunswick.

Reported by: Toronto Star, CTV News, Montreal Gazette and Kent Malo


Coast Guard crew receives award for rescue

1/27 - Glenview, Ill. - A helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station - Traverse City, Mich., was honored Sunday by the Glenview Council of the Navy League.

The crew – Lt. John McWilliams, Lt. Jeremy Loeb, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Petre and Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Bemis – received the Past Presidents' Award for rescuing seven people from a charter boat that sank in Lake Michigan.

On May 30, 2008, the 36-foot charter vessel Fin Seeker sank more than three miles east of Waukegan, Ill. All seven people aboard were safely rescued from the frigid water by an Air Facility Waukegan, Ill., HH-65C helicopter and a Coast Guard Station Kenosha, Wis., 41-foot utility boat. The survivors were transported to area hospitals where they were treated for hypothermia and subsequently released.

The crew was presented a trophy that accompanied the award at the Navy League's annual meeting and awards dinner at the Glenview Park Center. The Navy League of the United States is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating citizens about the importance of sea power to U.S. national security.

The Coast Guard operates Air Facility Waukegan annually from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Helicopter crews are deployed to the air facility from Air Station Traverse City and are responsible for search and rescue response and Homeland Security missions from Sheboygan, Wis., south to the Chicago metropolitan area of Lake Michigan.


Navy ship USS Green Bay commissioned in Long Beach

1/27 - Green Bay, Wis. - Helen's face may have launched 1,000 ships. Green Bay's name has launched its share. The latest is the USS Green Bay, commissioned Saturday in Long Beach, Calif.

It's the second vessel the Navy named USS Green Bay. The first was in commission from 1969 to 1977.

The Navy vessels follow a long line of schooners, side-wheel steamers, tugs, barks, barges and car ferries that have carried the name Green Bay or City of Green Bay dating to at least 1825. The new ship is named for the Midwest's "city by the bay," which has been a crucial waterway hub since long before anyone dreamed of planes, trains and automobiles.

Imagine no highways or railroads.

Jean Nicolet arrived at Red Banks in 1634 by water. Fur trading started in the 1700s by water. Fort Howard was manned by soldiers often brought by water. "The only way to get here was by water," said Dale Preston of Green Bay. "And it was the long way around because they didn't build the Sturgeon Bay canal until the late 1800s.

The most vessels entering the harbor were in 1910 when 1,593 ships carried 1.8 million total tons.

In 2008, 174 ships entered the harbor carrying 2.2 million tons. One of those was Pathfinder, carrying coal. Captain of the Dorothy Ann-Pathfinder tug-and-barge combination is Navy veteran, Green Bay Packers fan and Allouez, Wis., resident Gary Schmidt.

"I was proud they named one after us," Schmidt said of the USS Green Bay. "It is very cool."

Schmidt's combined vessel is more than 700 feet long and 70-plus feet wide, with a draft of 26 feet when fully loaded. USS Green Bay is 684 feet long and 104 feet wide, with a draft of 23 feet.

From the Green Bay Press Gazette


Port Reports - January 27

Buffalo - Dan Sweeley
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw made her first appearance in Buffalo on Monday.

Toronto - Frank Hood
Algocape was moved over to Redpath Sugar on the weekend and unloading of her cargo of has started.

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algowood backed her way into the channel through heavy ice Monday morning and was secure at the Sifto Salt dock and loading by 10:30 a.m. Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon provided ice breaking assistance as well as the tug Pride and MacDonald Marine tugs.

Detroit - Ken Borg
Algosteel arrived in Detroit Monday with salt. She was towed stern first up the Rouge River, entering the Short Cut Canal at 3:12 p.m. with the G tugs Wyoming and Superior and arrived at Motor City Materials on the Rouge River in River Rouge, Mi, about 4:30 p.m. There is a lot of ice in the Rouge. Cuyahoga was loading salt at Canadian Rock Salt in Ojibway. There is not much ice in the Detroit River off the Rouge.


Updates - January 27

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Calendar of Events updated

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 27

In 1912, the Great Lakes Engineering Works' Ecorse yard launched the steel bulk freighter WILLIAM P. SNYDER JR (Hull#83), for the Shenango Furnace Co.

The LEON FALK JR. closed the 1974 season at Superior by loading 17,542 tons of ore bound for Detroit.

January 27, 1985 - The CITY OF MIDLAND 41 had to return to port (Ludington) after heavy seas caused a 30-ton crane to fall off a truck on her car deck.

On 27 January 1978, ALLEGHENY, the training vessel of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy (built in 1944, at Orange, Texas as a sea-going naval tug) capsized at her winter dock at Traverse City, Michigan, from the weight of accumulated ice. She was recovered but required an expensive rebuild, was sold and renamed MALCOLM in 1979.

On 27 January 1893, Charles Lonsby and Louis Wolf purchased the 161 foot wooden steam barge THOMAS D. STIMSON for $28,000. The vessel was built in 1881, by W. J. Daley & Sons at Mt. Clemens, Michigan, as a schooner and was originally named VIRGINIUS. She was converted to a steamship in 1887.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series


Port Report - January 26

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algosteel was loading salt Sunday in Goderich, Ont., as the salt season continues.


Updates - January 26

News Photo Gallery updated

Calendar of Events updated

Ashtabula Lighthouse page updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 26

26 January 1994 - The THALASSA DESGAGNES (steel propeller tanker, 131.43 meters, 5,746 gross tons, built in 1976, in Norway, as the a.) JOASLA, renamed b.) ORINOCO in 1979, c.) RIO ORINOCO in 1982) entered service for Le Groupe Desgagnes.

The keel for the CLIFFS VICTORY, a). NOTRE DAME VICTORY (Hull#1229) was laid on January 26, 1945, at Portland, Oregon, by Oregon Shipbuilding Corp.

THOMAS F. COLE (Hull #27) was launched January 26, 1907, by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan, for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co..

J. F. SCHOELLKOPF JR. was launched January 26, 1907, as a.) HUGH KENNEDY (Hull#349) at Lorain, Ohio, by the American Ship Building Co.

ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR was launched in 1967, as a.) DEMETERTON (Hull#619) at South Shields, United Kingdom, by John Readhead & Sons, Ltd.

On 26 January 1898, the CITY OF DULUTH (wooden passenger/package freight vessel, 202 foot, 1,310 gross tons, built in 1874, at Marine City, Michigan, as a passenger vessel) was carrying passengers, corn, flour and general merchandise from Chicago to St. Joseph, Michigan, during a late season run when she struck an uncharted bar in a storm inbound to St. Joseph. She was heavily damaged and driven ashore 350 feet west of the north pier where she broke up. The Lifesaving Service rescued all 24 passengers and 17 crew members using breeches' buoy.

Data from: Joe Barr, Steve Haverty, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Mackinaw working lower lakes

1/25 -  The USCGC Mackinaw was downbound in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers Saturday. The Mackinaw arrived from Goderich about 1 p.m. and made a brief stop at the Port Huron Marine Terminal. She continued downbound, past Detroit and entered Lake Erie around 9 p.m. The Mackinaw will assist the Algonova who was downbound ahead of the Mackinaw for Nanticoke.

This is the Mackinaw's first visit to the lower lakes this season, she has been working in the St. Marys River and Straits of Mackinac.


Twin Ports shipping down for the first time in six years

1/25 – Duluth, Minn. - For the first time in six years, less cargo passed through the Twin Ports this shipping season than last.

The 45.6 million tons of freight that flowed through docks in Duluth and Superior during the 2008-2009 season represented a decline of 4.6 percent from the 2007-08 season. “Through October of 2008, we were running ahead of last year,” said Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. But as a national recession took shape, shipments of iron ore pellets dropped off. “When it hit, it hit hard,” Ojard said of the downturn.
Several lakers laid up early this season as a result of diminished demand for iron ore. Ojard noted that not a single pellet was shipped out of Superior during the month of January. Iron ore shipments sank 7 percent from the previous season to 18.4 million tons.

“Grain was the other surprise,” Ojard said. Shipments of grain out of the Twin Ports fell to 1.2 million tons during the most recent season — down 61.2 percent from the season before. Ojard said wheat farmers in the Ukraine and Australia enjoyed bumper harvests last year, leading to reduced international demand for American grain. With grain shipments down, far fewer ocean-going ships called on the port. In all, 69 salties visited Duluth or Superior during the 2008-2009 season. That’s less than half the number of saltwater vessels the Twin Ports received during the previous season.

Coal shipments remained a bright spot for the port. Midwest Energy Resources moved 45.6 million tons of coal through its terminal in Superior during the 2008-2009 season, besting the previous year by 6.3 percent and setting a new record high for the port.

Heading into 2009, Ojard predicted a slow start to the approaching shipping season. “There will be ships that don’t set sail, including some right here in our harbor,” he said. The big unknown, according to Ojard, is the length and depth of the current recession. But Ojard said reduced fuel, commodity and shipping rate costs could all help set the stage for a recovery. “We’re seeing a complete realignment of cost structures, from raw materials to energy. And reduced costs will hopefully help spur consumption,” he said.

From the Duluth News Tribune


Port Reports - January 25

Port Colborne
John B. Aird arrived off Port Colborne, Ont., late on Friday, following the CCGS icebreaker Samuel Risley. She spent the night still in the ice and the Risley escorted her in Saturday about 11 a.m. She is tied up at Wharf 16 south of CSL Assiniboine.

Detroit - Ken Borg
Cuyahoga was loading salt at Ojibway, Ont., on Saturday. The CCGS Griffon was working the ice around Grassy Island and near the Cuyahoga, then she departed for Goderich, passing the Short Cut Canal at 1:37 p.m. Algonova was down the Detroit River at Belle Isle at 3:20 p.m., having meet the Griffon just below the St. Clair Crib Light. The USCGC Mackinaw came down the Detroit River around 7 p.m..


Updates - January 25

News Photo Gallery updated

Calendar of Events updated

Ashtabula Lighthouse page updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 25

25 January 2003 - The LE GRANDE HERMINE. a replica of a historic sailing ship, was destroyed by fire in Jordan Harbor just west of St. Catharines, Ontario. The vessel had become a southern Ontario landmark and was well known to boat watchers heading to the Welland Canal. Police say it was almost certainly the work of an arsonist.

On January 25, 1988, the tanker L’ORME NO 1 was involved in an accident at Ultramar Refinery near Quebec City when attempting to tie up during foggy weather. She struck the dock and the impact started a fire that extensively damaged the wharf and the forward section of the ship.

Scrapping on the E. J. BLOCK began at Port Colborne, Ontario, on January 25, 1988.

The JOSHUA A .HATFIELD (Hull#782) was launched January 25, 1923, at Lorain, Ohio, by the American Ship Building Co.

The W.C. RICHARDSON was launched January 25, 1908, as the a.) WAINWRIGHT (Hull#175) at Wyandotte, Michigan, by the Detroit Ship Building Co.

On 25 January 1890, ALEX NIMICK (wooden propeller, 298 foot, 1,968 gross tons) was launched at W. Bay City, Michigan. She was built by J. Davidson (Hull # 30).

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Report - January 24

Goderich - Dale Baechler and Duane Jessup
USCGC Mackinaw arrived at 11 a.m. on Friday and went to the south inner channel pier to tie up. She arrived a day ahead of the expected arrival of Algosteel from Chicago. Photos in the News Photo Gallery


Severstal idling Ohio steelmaking furnace

1/24 - Morgantown, W.Va. - Severstal North America will idle its electric arc furnace in Mingo Junction, Ohio, next month because of poor steel market conditions.

Company spokesman Michael Henson said Friday that he couldn't provide a firm date for the shutdown. He did not know how many employees will be affected or how long the shutdown will last. Henson says the shutdown will last until market conditions improve. The company began temporary layoffs in December at U.S. facilities in West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and Michigan.

The $115 million electric furnace is only five years old and has never been used at its full capacity of nearly 2.5 million tons a year.

From the Columbus Ohio Dispatch


Great Lakes Iron Ore Down 80 Percent in January

1/24 – Cleveland - Shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes in January plunged 80 percent compared to a year ago, totaling only 700,000 net tons. The last iron ore cargo was loaded on January 13.

Even though the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, closed on January 15, the iron ore trade, from Escanaba, Michigan, usually continues until the end of January, and often into February. Instead, that dock loaded its final cargo on January 9.

The 700,000 tons that did move in January do not even represent a full month’s shipments from any of the largest iron ore ports on the lakes. The January ore float also only represents enough cargo to keep two and a half of the largest U.S.-Flag lakers busy for a month.

More information is available at

Source: Lake Carriers’ Association


Toledo's port saw 10.34 percent decline in '08

1/24 - Toledo - Cargo volume at Toledo's seaport declined by slightly more than 10 percent during 2008, with grain traffic accounting for the biggest decline, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority statistics show.

Warren McCrimmon, the port authority's seaport director, said virtually the entire decline, including the 53 percent drop in grain cargoes, was attributable to the region's faltering economy. "There was no market and no ships," he said. "The lack of bottoms [ships] coming in is significant, and you no longer had steel coming in as a major import."

Foreign ships delivering steel and forest-products to Great Lakes ports often take U.S. or Canadian grain out when they leave. But last year, just 22 overseas ships, or salties, called in Toledo, down from 38 the year before and 81 in 2006. Port authority officials are hoping that state and federal stimulus programs intended to revive the national and regional economies will be beneficial for both the Port of Toledo and Toledo Express Airport.

Paul Toth, the port authority's interim president, said officials hope to land as much as $15 million in state and federal funding toward two transportation infrastructure projects: the Ironville Docks on what used to be a Gulf Oil refinery in East Toledo, and a new U.S. Customs inspection station and warehouse at the BAX Global cargo-hub complex at Toledo Express Airport. Mr. Toth stopped short of job-creation predictions for either project, offering only that their immediate impacts would be in the construction sector and they would bring "long-term dividends to northwest Ohio."

The Ironville Docks are expected to increase the Port of Toledo's cargo-handling capability to support its future development as an inland hub for "short-sea shipping," a concept in which containerized freight hauled across the oceans on mammoth container ships is transferred to or from smaller vessels at coastal ports. Local port and government officials met several times last year with organizers of a proposed deep-sea port at Melford, N.S., that could become such a transfer point for cargo sailing to or from Toledo via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Virtually all cargo now handled through Toledo's port is bulk or break-bulk, rather than containerized. Iron ore, destined either for steel mills in southwestern Ohio or northeastern Kentucky or for oversea mills after reloading, was the biggest local cargo by weight last year, with 4.68 million tons moving across Toledo's docks. That represented a 7.3 percent decline from 2007.

Coal, long the heaviest-volume cargo in Toledo, dipped relatively slightly, by 1.5 percent to 3.19 million tons last year. Along with grain, bigger declines were recorded in the general cargo and liquid bulk sectors. The former includes metals, forest products, and bulky manufactures like pipe, while the latter features petroleum products and liquid fertilizers.

Dry bulk, including such cargoes as stone, sugar, and pig iron, was the lone bright spot. Mr. McCrimmon said dry bulk increased thanks to robust shipments of petroleum coke, a by-product of oil refining.

A. Bailey Stanbery, chairman of the port authority board of directors' seaport committee, said the 10.34 percent decline was nothing to be ashamed of, considering the economic environment, and he commended Midwest Terminals, the stevedore at the authority-owned general cargo docks, for its efforts to diversify the types of cargo shipped in and out of Toledo.

From the Toledo Blade


Updates - January 24

News Photo Gallery updated

Ashtabula Lighthouse page updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 24

The JOHNSTOWN (Hull#4504) was launched January 24, 1952, at Sparrows Point, Maryland, by Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard.

SPRUCEGLEN was launched January 24, 1924, as a.) WILLIAM K. FIELD (Hull#176) at Toledo, Ohio, by the Toledo Ship Building Co.

The steel barge MADEIRA (Hull#38) was launched on January 24, 1900, at Chicago, Illinois, by the Chicago Ship Building Co.

In 1988, while under tow of German tug EVEREST of 1960, the ENDERS M. VOORHEES encountered force 9 winds, parted her towline and went aground and subsequently broke in two at Profitis Elais, Kythnos Island (Thermia) in the Cyclades between the Mirto and Aegean Seas. She was on her way to Turkey for scrapping at the time.

Data from: Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port report - January 23

South Chicago - Steve Bauer
Algosteel was inbound at 106th Street on the Calumet River at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. She was assisted by the "G" tugs Massachusetts and Colorado, and was headed to the Chicago Export Terminal with a load of salt.


Today in Great Lakes History - January 23

January 23 - The CELTIC (wooden schooner-barge, 190 foot, 716 gross tons, built 1890, at W. Bay City, Michigan) broke away from the steamer H.E. RUNNELS during a fierce gale on Lake Huron on 29 November 1902, and was lost with all hands. No wreckage was found until 23 January 1903, when a yawl and the captain’s desk with the ship’s papers was found on Boom Point, southeast of Cockburn Island.

The GEORGE A. STINSON struck a wall of the Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on January 23, 1979. The damage was estimated at $200,000.

The rail car ferry GRAND HAVEN sailed on her first trip as a roll on/roll off carrier from Port Burwell on January 23, 1965, loaded with 125 tons of coiled steel bound for Cleveland and Walton Hills, Ohio.

Data from: Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Port Report - January 22

Goderich - Dale Baechler
After returning from Lake Michigan, Algowood arrived early Wednesday morning and backed down the channel at Goderich, Ont., with the assistance of the tug Pride and MacDonald Marine tugs. She was on the Sifto Salt dock under the spout at 10:15 a.m.


Updates - January 22

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 22

The c.) WOODLAND, a.) FRENCH RIVER) was sold to International Capital Equipment of Canada and cleared off the Lakes from Montreal January 22, 1991, under the Bahamian flag with the modified name to d.) WOODLANDS.

The GOLDEN HIND was sold on January 22, 1973, to Trico Enterprises Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda (Quebec & Ontario Transportation Co. Ltd., Thorold, Ontario, mgr.)

January 22, 1913 - The SAINTE MARIE (Hull#127) was launched at Toledo, Ohio, by Craig Shipbuilding Co.

Data from: Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Lake Erie's surface is 98 percent frozen after cold snap

1/21 – Cleveland, Ohio - This week's bitter cold was enough to freeze Lake Erie's surface.

Jim Kosarik, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland, estimated the lake is 98 percent covered by ice. Some of that frozen cover is made up of chunks and plates of ice that can move around in the wind. Most of the lake freezes over about six of every 10 years, Kosarik said, and the area is right on schedule for when that usually happens - mid-January.

So did the ice break the Lake Erie snow machine for the season? Not entirely. Kosarik said splits and cracks in the ice are enough to produce lake-effect snow. And a north wind can carry lake-effect from other Great Lakes - particularly Lake Huron - to the area. And Lake Erie waters can reopen quickly, he said, if there are several days in a row of temperatures in the 40s and 50s.

But there's no chance of that this week. Cleveland’s normal high temperatures for this time of year are about 32 degrees, he said. But we won't climb out of the teens and 20s for a few more days.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer


Reunion Sunday in Buffalo will recall 1959 ship/bridge disaster
Runaway freighters destroyed bridge, caused ice jam that helped set off flooding

1/21 – Buffalo, N.Y. - Just after 10 p. m. on Jan. 21, 1959, William Sullivan looked out from his South Street home and declared: “Bejesus, there’s a boat coming toward us.” Family members simply assumed Uncle “Willow” had downed one too many, as was his custom.

But this was no hallucination. Sullivan was witnessing the unmanned Great Lakes freighter MacGilvray Shiras round a jagged U-turn in the Buffalo River, after breaking away from its moorings upstream, on a wayward journey that would end in the destruction of the Michigan Avenue Bridge and the flooding of the Old First Ward. The 50th anniversary of the disaster will be observed at 1 p. m. Sunday in Waterfront Memories & More Museum, 208 Elk St. at Smith Street.

On residential streets where the river meanders past towering grain elevators on its way to Lake Erie, the Tewksbury Incident, named for the freighter that demolished the bridge after being rammed by the MacGilvray Shiras, remains seared in the collective memory. “Everybody remembers where they were. It was like the day JFK was shot,” said Margaret “Peg” Overdorf, executive director of the Valley Community Association, which operates the small maritime museum in the Helen Beaman Center.

The catastrophe was concocted in a perfect storm of horrendous weather and human error, according to a court ruling years later. In the preceding days, Buffalo had experienced “the kind of weather we’re having right now” — bitter cold and heavy snow — said Kevin Muggeridge, a South Buffalo native who has chronicled the Tewksbury incident.

But that morning brought a sudden warm-up and a quick thaw. In mid-afternoon, thick ice covering the Buffalo River and Cazenovia Creek broke up and began floating downstream, Muggeridge said. Wind-driven rains caused further loosening, and by nightfall the ice mass pushed toward the MacGilvray Shiras, docked beside the Concrete Central Elevator at the foot of Smith Street. The vessel was part of a “winter fleet” of lakers — sometimes as many as two dozen — that laid up on the Buffalo waterfront between shipping seasons in those days.

When floes struck its hull just before 10 p. m., according to subsequent court filings, the MacGilvray Shiras’ mooring lines snapped and it began a winding journey downriver toward the Michigan Avenue lift bridge, about a mile away. By the time it reached the sharp bend opposite South Street, the ghost ship that Willow Sullivan beheld through his front window was an out-of-control behemoth.

“It was such an unbelievable sight in the dead of winter,” recalled his nephew, Tom Graham, who lived upstairs. For a freighter twice the length of a football field to navigate the U-turn, even in summer, required two tugboats — one on the bow, one on the stern — along with an experienced hand in the pilot house, Graham noted. But the MacGilvray Shiras somehow completed the maneuver on its own and plowed ahead in a gale-force wind. At the Standard Elevator, near the foot of St. Clair Street, it rammed the Michael K. Tewksbury, breaking its lines and pushing it downriver stern-first.

Within minutes the boats passed beneath the Ohio Street Bridge, which escaped damage because it had been raised for reconstruction over the winter.

As the vessels approached Michigan Avenue, word got to the bridge crew, who were tending beers in the Swanee House at Michigan and Ohio before the 11 p. m. shift change. They scrambled back in time to raise the deck about 20 feet before jumping to safety — not nearly enough to avert the impending disaster. At 11:17 p. m., the Tewksbury slammed into the span, most of which collapsed in a tangle of steel. The bridge’s north tower toppled at 7:45 the following morning.

The initial collision, which ended with the Tewksbury wedged in the river at an angle, its stern covered with twisted beams, completely blocked the current. Combined with ice jams that began during the afternoon, the backup flooded an 18-block area as temperatures plummeted toward zero. At the height of the calamity, recalled Bert Hyde, curator of the Waterfront Memories museum, water reached the porch railing of her family’s Kentucky Street home. Hundreds of basements were flooded.

Because flood insurance did not exist, “you just cleaned up and kept going,” said Peg Szczygiel, also a Waterfront Memories curator. Making matters worse, with the Michigan Avenue Bridge destroyed and the Ohio Street Bridge out of use for the winter, some affected streets were virtually isolated from the rest of the city.

Damage from the Tewksbury Incident was at least $6 million, including $5 million to the bridge and $1 million to waterlogged properties, according to estimates at the time. The cost would be several times higher in today’s dollars, Muggeridge said. Amazingly, other than leg and rib injuries suffered by two bridge tenders, no one was hurt in the ordeal.

The Michigan Avenue Bridge, linking downtown Buffalo with the commercial waterfront, was replaced in less than a year. Lawsuits spawned by the disaster took years to settle. Kinsman Marine Transit Co. of Cleveland ultimately was ruled negligent for failing to properly secure MacGilvray Shiras, one of four Kinsman vessels tied up in Buffalo that winter.

Midland Transport Co. of Cleveland, owner of the Tewksbury, was held partly liable because the boat’s watchman was on shore with a girlfriend when he was supposed to be on duty, Muggeridge said. The City of Buffalo was absolved of responsibility for the flooding, he said. Though bridge crewmen were in the nearby tavern awaiting a shift change when they should have been manning the lift, the city could not have foreseen the backup caused by the collision.

Sunday’s Tewksbury Reunion will bring together a number of people who remember the incident, including retired Erie County Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins, who was a rookie Buffalo patrolman at the time; the aptly named Dorothy Flood, who lived on Kentucky Street in the hardest-hit neighborhood; and eyewitnesses Jack Driscoll, Pat Mann and Ed Smith.

From the Buffalo News


Updates - January 21

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 21

On this day on 1959, gale force winds and ice at Buffalo, New York caused the steamer MAC GILVRAY SHIRAS to break lose from its moorings and on the way down the Buffalo River collided with the MICHAEL K. TEWKSBURY and severed her moorings. Both vessels crashed into the Michigan Avenue Bridge causing millions of dollars in damage.

On 21 January 1895, CHICORA (wooden propeller passenger/package freight vessel, 199 foot, 1,123 gross tons, built in 1892, at Detroit, Michigan) was bound from Milwaukee for St. Joseph on a mid-winter run when he foundered with little trace. All 25 on board were lost. The ship's dog was found wandering on the beach by St. Joseph, Michigan, a few days later. A well organized search for the wreck continued until mid-June. Many small pieces of wreckage were washed ashore in the Spring.

On January 21, 1978, the Multifood Elevator #4 at Duluth, Minnesota, caught fire and collapsed onto the deck of the steamer HARRY L. ALLEN which was laid up beneath the elevator. Her pilothouse was destroyed by fire. Severe warping and cracking of her plating occurred when cold water was poured onto her red-hot deck. Declared a constructive total loss, she was scrapped at Duluth in 1978.

Data from: Brian Wroblewski, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


St. Clair River clogging with ice

1/20 - Sarnia , Ont. - Ice was clogging the south end of the St. Clair River Friday afternoon, however Claude DiCaire, a senior ice forecaster with Environment Canada, said Canadian Coast Guard cutters were working to keep the waterway open.

"The Samuel Risley (ice breaker) went down the river this morning and reported ice around Algonac was starting to jam," he said. He added the southern third of the St. Clair is "pretty much full of ice."

Ice breakers are working to keep the shipping lanes open, but, "It's freezing so fast it doesn't stay (clear) very long. We're looking at quick formations of ice."

There's far less ice in the river near Lake Huron, he said. "The further north you go, the lighter it is.” In southern Lake Huron, meanwhile, there's thin ice near the shore. "There's still some shipping going back and forth between Detroit and the southern Lake Huron, DiCaire added.

From the Sarnia Observer


Port Reports - January 20

Sarnia - William Reed
The Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin arrived for winter Lay-up Monday afternoon in Sarnia's North slip. The Martin took up position behind the Peter R. Cresswell in the spot the Atlantic Huron held since arriving for lay-up on Sunday. The Huron backed down river under her own power, allowing the Martin to take the spot along the dock face. The Sarnia based tug Menasha worked along side the dock clearing ice while the Martin waited with its stern out in the slip. The Atlantic Huron slowly returned to the North Slip, rafting along side the Martin about 4 p.m.

Once the traffic had cleared the downbound, Saginaw passed Sarnia about 4 p.m. and turned below the Black River. It then headed up to the North slip and back into its winter lay-up dock at Cargill in Sarnia around 5 p.m. Sarnia is now packed tightly with wintering ships. The lap-up fleet includes Algoway, Peter R. Cresswell, Atlantic Huron, Manistee, Manitowoc, Mississagi, Ojibway, Saginaw and Algonova.

Halifax - Mac Mackay

Algocanada sailed from Halifax Monday morning, January 19, on her first trip since delivery. While in Halifax crews applied the Algoma Bear logos to her bows. Emerald Star exited drydock Sunday and has also sailed.

South Chicago - Steve Bauer
John B. Aird was inbound at Calumet Harbor at noon Monday. Destination was the Morton Salt dock at 100th St. on the Calumet River.


Ohio antique club to host historical program

1/20 - Westlake, Ohio - The West Shore Antique and History Group is presenting the program "The History of Passenger Travel on the Great Lakes,” by Christopher Gillchrist, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Historical Society, Monday, Feb. 9.

The program is at the Westlake Porter Public Library, 27333 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake, Ohio. It will start at 7 p.m., with refreshments served beforehand and the program immediately after. Further information can be had by contacting Mary Ann Kloss at 216-228-4886.


Updates - January 20

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 20

20 January 1980 - The E. M. FORD (steel propeller self-unloader cement carrier, 406 foot, 4,498 gross tons, built in 1898, at Lorain, Ohio as a bulk freighter, converted to self-unloading bulk cement carrier in 1956, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin) was raised at her dock in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She sank on Christmas Eve of 1979, when gale force winds forced her from her moorings and repeatedly slammed her bow into the dock facing. Crews had to remove a solid 3 feet of hardened cement and patch her holed bow before she could be re-floated.

NORDIC BLOSSOM was launched January 20, 1981 as the a.) NORDIC SUN.

On January 20, 1917, American Ship Building's Lorain yard launched the steel bulk freighter EUGENE W. PARGNY for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co.

January 20, 1911 - The ANN ARBOR NO 5 made her first trip into Kewaunee.

On 20 January 1923, CHOCTAW (steel propeller packet, 75 foot, 53 gross tons, built in 1911, at Collingwood) burned at her dock at Port Stanley, Ontario.

On 20 January 1978, HARRY L. ALLEN (formerly JOHN B. COWLE, built in 1910) burned at her winter lay-up berth at Capital 4 grain elevator dock in Duluth. She was declared a total loss.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history

Please e-mail if you would like to contribute a significant event in Great Lakes history.


Port Report - January 19

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algosteel made her way up from Toledo on Sunday and was able to back down the channel through the night. She is under the spout loading at Sifto Salt on a cold, snowy Monday morning.


Updates - January 19

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 19

On 19 January 1824, the Welland Canal Company was incorporated to build the first Welland Canal.

The DAVID M. WHITNEY (steel propeller freighter, 412 foot, 4,626 gross tons) was launched on 19 January 1901, by the Detroit Ship Building Company (Hull #138) in Wyandotte, Michigan, for the Gilchrist Transportation Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Renamed b.) EDWIN L. BOOTH in 1914, c.) G.N. WILSON in 1921, d.) THOMAS BRITT in 1928, and e.) BUCKEYE in 1943. She lasted until 1969, when she was scrapped in Spain.

January 19, 1927 - The Grand Trunk carferry MADISON was christened with a bottle of Wisconsin milk. She entered service in March of 1927.

The CLARENCE B RANDALL, the a.) J.J. SULLIVAN of 1907, was towed to Windsor, Ontario, on January 19, 1987, for scrapping.

Data from: Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Roger Blough and Presque Isle encounter heavy ice at Erie
Neah Bay assists both into bay

1/18 - 11 a.m. - At 10 a.m. Sunday, the Neah Bay reported that they were able to break up the ice in the channel and clear a way for the Blough to reach her mooring. By 10:30, the Neah Bay was finishing breaking up the ice in the slip for the Presque Isle, and the Isle was at the entrance to the ship channel waiting entry. The Neah Bay will be underway back to Cleveland shortly.

The story began late Saturday, when the Roger Blough was mired in ice on its way to a winter layup in Presque Isle Bay. The GLF laker was stuck in the entrance channel to the bay. Behind the Blough, the tug/barge Presque Isle was anchored in open water in Lake Erie. The two ships had offloaded their last deliveries in Conneaut Harbor earlier this week.

The two freighters were waiting for the Canadian icebreaker Griffon to make its way across the lake to lead the way for the two big ships to make their way to their winter moorings at the ore docks and Mountfort Terminal. At 10:30 p.m. Saturday, the Griffon was off Point Pelee headed to Erie. She was estimating 3 hours travel time to Erie.

The Griffon stayed near Southeast Shoal Light to meet the upbound Algoeast and escort her to Detroit. Around 11 p.m. Saturday, the USCGC Neah Bay departed USCG Station Cleveland heading east. The Neah Bay arrived off Erie, at 3 a.m. Sunday morning and was talking with the Blough. After a day and night of total to near white outs on Saturday, with winds averaging 25-40 mph, it was then decided to hold off breaking ice till around 8 a.m. when it would be daylight.

Reported by Hans Urban and Fox News 66 - Erie


Port Report - January 18

Toledo - Jim Hoffman
Early Friday evening the Algosteel arrived at Toledo bound for the Kuhlman Dock upriver located between the Anderson "K" and "E" elevators to unload a salt cargo. She was delayed on her transit by the CSX Railroad Bridge which failed to open because of mechanical problems due to the bitterly cold weather conditions. Early Saturday afternoon the CSX Bridge was repaired and was able to open. The Algosteel with the tug Idaho on the bow was able to depart from the Midwest Terminals Dock and head upriver. The tug Nebraska performed ice breaking operations on the Maumee River ahead of the Algosteel tow. The tow arrived at the NS South Railroad Bridge located by the grain elevators and was delayed due to mechanical problems where the railroad bridge failed to open. Repairs were quickly made and the railroad bridge was able to open. A short time later the Algosteel arrived at the Kuhlman Dock and began to unload her salt cargo. She was expected to finish unloading salt and to depart from the Kuhlman Dock around midnight Saturday night depending on the unloading process. However ice conditions and bridge problems may delay her departure. When the Algosteel departs from Toledo she will be bound for Goderich, Ontario to load another salt cargo.

Pictures in the News Photo Gallery


Seaway traffic hard to gauge

1/18 - The global economic storm could produce choppy waters on the St. Lawrence Seaway this year. However, after declining sharply in 2008, grain shipments could turn out to be a bright spot.

Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., said the global economic collapse has created uncertainty about 2009. "We expect next year to be a challenge," he said, adding it's difficult to make projections at this point. As a result of the economic uncertainty around the world, the seaway's customers are having trouble forecasting their own business operations for the coming year.

That in turn makes it difficult for the seaway to know what to expect in terms of cargo volumes. "As we get into February and March, closer to the opening of navigation, we'll start to get a better idea," said Hodgson, adding that one commodity seems to be in a better position than others to weather the storm. "Our best estimates are that grain will probably remain at similar levels as last year," he said, reflecting a bigger prairie crop and continued strong global demand for food.

A repeat of last year's performance may not be the best possible news, given that grain traffic was down by 27 percent in 2008. That decline was the main factor in an overall reduction of five percent in seaway traffic as 40.71 million tonnes of cargo were shipped through the 3,700 kilometre inland waterway system, down from 43.01 million tonnes in 2007. Included in that was 7.57 million tonnes of grain, down 27 percent from the previous year's 10.41 million tonnes.

Imports of steel slabs were also down in 2008, while other commodities such as iron ore, coal and general cargo were relatively unchanged. The Seaway did generate new business in 2008, including wind turbines and new bulk commodities, and Hodgson expected that to continue in the year ahead, with a special 20 percent discount on tolls for new shippers.

Tolls will be frozen in 2009, the second year of a three-year freeze designed to provide planning stability for shippers and ensure the seaway is competitive with other trade gateways into the Great Lakes region. Those include rail to and from east coast ports and rail combined with barge traffic on the Mississippi River. Grain is subject to tolls of $1.30 per tonne, about $32,500 for a typical 25,000 tonne vessel. Other fees boost the total cost to $40,000.

One positive factor in recent months has been the sharp decline in ocean freight rates. When rates are high, vessel operators focus on ocean-based movement to capitalize on those rates, leaving seaway shippers scrambling for vessels. "But with the changes going on in global markets and freight rates declining so much, we think that might present some opportunities," Hodgson said.

The 2009 shipping season will open with a special ceremony at the St. Lambert lock near Montreal in March, marking the waterway's 50th year of operation.

From The Western Producer


Updates - January 18

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 18

On 18 January 2004, the Great Lakes Fleet’s 1000 footer EDGAR B. SPEER became stuck in the ice in the Rock Cut in the St. Mary’s River. Over the next two days, the U.S.C.G.C. MACKINAW tried to free her, but unsuccessfully. On 21 January, the tugs RELIANCE, MISSOURI, JOSEPH H THOMPSON JR and JOYCE L VAN ENKEVORT all coordinated their efforts under the direction of Wellington Maritime’s Captain John Wellington and got the SPEER free.

The CABOT was refloated on January 18, 1967. On December 16, 1966, while loading at Montreal, the CABOT rolled over on her side and sank. The CABOT's stern section, used in the interim as the stern section of the b.) CANADIAN EXPLORER, now sails as the stern section of c.) CANADIAN TRANSFER.

The MONDOC had her Canadian registry closed on January 18, 1979. The vessel had been renamed b) CORAH ANN and sold to Jamaican company. CORAH ANN was scrapped in 2003.

The National Steamship Co. was incorporated January 18, 1906.

L. P. Mason and Company of E. Saginaw, Michigan sold the steam barge PORTER CHAMBERLAIN (wooden steam barge, 134 foot, 257 gross tons, built in 1874, at Marine City, Michigan) on 18 January 1888, to Comstock Brothers and L. & H. D. Churchill of Alpena, Michigan.

Data from: Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Gott Strikes Pier

1/17 - Duluth, Minn. - On Friday the Edwin H. Gott struck a pier near the Port Terminal in Duluth Harbor about 1 p.m. as it arrived for winter lay-up.

There are no reports of injuries or pollution and the thousand-footer sustained minor damage to its exterior hull above the water line on the starboard side, while docked at its winter lay-up berth. U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Duluth is investigating the incident and working closely with the vessel’s owner, Great Lakes Fleet Inc., to ensure safe repairs for the crew and the environment.

Reported by USCG


Saginaw last passage through Soo Locks Thursday

1/17 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. - The Saginaw was the last ship to lock through the Soo Locks on Thursday, marking the lock’s closure and the end of the Soo Lock’s shipping season. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recorded that the 639-foot Saginaw cleared the downbound locks Thursday at 9:47 a.m. The Edwin H. Gott was the last vessel to pass through upbound, locking though Wednesday at 3:32 p.m.

In 2008, 8,461 vessels passed through the Soo Locks, carrying 80.6 million tons of cargo. The Poe Lock will undergo inspection and maintenance of hydraulic, electrical, structural and other key equipment during the closure.

Reported by Soo Today


New names listed for four Canada Steamship Lines boats

1/17 - The Transport Canada Web site has been updated to reflect new names for the four former Fednav salties bought late last year by Canada Steamship Lines.

The new names are a nod to CSL's past, since all have previously been carried by other vessels in the fleet. As such, Lake Erie becomes Richelieu, Lake Michigan will be renamed Mapleglen, Lake Ontario will be renamed Oakglen and Lake Superior will be renamed Saguenay. All four of the vessels are currently laid up at Montreal for the winter.

Reported by Roger LeLievre


Vessels in convoy as ice builds on Lake St. Clair

1/17 – Detroit, Mich. - Building ice on Lake St. Clair is making for difficult passage across the lake. Friday afternoon, a convoy of vessels was escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley and U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay. Around noon, Algosteel, Algosar and Cuyahoga all entered the lake downbound behind the Risley.

The upbound Neah Bay met the convoy near the St. Clair Crib Light and turned to lead the convoy downbound. After reaching the Detroit River, the Algosteel and Algosar continued downbound for Lake Erie behind the Neah Bay.

Once clear of the Detroit River, the Algosteel was lead by the Neah Bay heading for Toledo. Algosar headed for Cleveland, escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon, which departed its base in Amherstburg, Ont.

Cuyahoga docked at Ojibway Salt in Windsor and is expected run the salt shuttle across the Detroit River to Detroit. The Samuel Risley met the John B. Aird off Windsor and escorted her upbound across Lake St. Clair. The Aird loaded salt at Ojibway in Windsor and is scheduled to deliver the load for Chicago.

Reported by Mike Havlick


Port Report - January 17

Twin Ports - Al Miller
Shipping activity in the Twin Ports ended for the season Friday morning when Great Lakes Fleet's Edgar B. Speer and Edwin H. Gott arrived in Duluth for layup. The Speer tied up at the port terminal near the St. Lawrence Cement silo. The Gott docked at Garfield pier.


Push is on to add more Great Lakes icebreakers

1/17 - Port Huron, Mich. - Lawmakers and associations from the Great Lakes region are pushing to get more icebreaking ships on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard's fleet isn't capable of keeping up with the area's harsh winters, they contend. "There are not occasional problems, there are constant problems," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers Association, which represents 16 companies with 63 ships on the Great Lakes. "The (Coast Guard) crews are doing the best they can, but there is no way to get around the fact that the ships are getting old."

Groups such as Nekvasil's and the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force are asking the government to provide funding to build a twin to the 240-foot Mackinaw. The ship, based in Cheboygan, is the biggest and newest icebreaker on the Great Lakes. In a news release this week, Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said she and other Great Lakes members of Congress are pushing for the issue to receive funding as part of a multibillion dollar stimulus bill proposed by President-elect Barack Obama. About $153 million has been requested.

Miller said such funding is important for the more than $1 billion Great Lakes shipping industry. Nekvasil agrees. The companies his group represents incurred $1.5 million in ice damage to ships in March, he said. "When you don't have the Coast Guard there to keep the shipping lanes open, you can't keep the cargo moving," he said. "We need to upgrade the Great Lakes icebreaking fleet."

The U.S. Coast Guard uses eight icebreaking cutters on the Great Lakes -- including the 225-foot Hollyhock based in Port Huron. The cutters break ice on the lakes and other waterways including Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers.

During the winter months, 20 million tons of cargo -- from salt and grain to stone and coal -- is transported on the Great Lakes, Nekvasil said. That accounts for about 15 percent of what's transported each year.

"This is one of those shovel-ready projects," Nekvasil said. "The blueprints are there. If they award the contracts, the shipyard can start cutting steel tomorrow."

Lt. David French, external affairs officer with the Coast Guard's Detroit sector in Cleveland, said he knows there are requests from politicians but wouldn't comment on pending legislation. "Certainly the industry folks would like us to have more," he said. "We are aware of the folks' concerns."

French said the U.S. Coast Guard works with the Canadian Coast Guard and private firms to ensure shipping channels are navigable. "We work as a team to keep the ice open," he said. "We move our icebreakers to wherever the ice is concentrated."

Ron Morrow, ice service specialists for Canadian Ice Services, which provides information to the Canadian Coast Guard, said "just in the last week or so things have started to kick into high gear" with water freezing in the Blue Water Area. The worst conditions on local waterways are on Lake St. Clair, he said, where ice is between 2 and 12 inches thick.

Lt. j.g. Christopher Jasnoch, operations officer for the Hollyhock, said the cutter works mostly on Lake Huron, the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair. He said the icebreaker's major task is to continually groom shipping lanes and ensure they are clear. If the ice shifts, cutters will provide direct assistance to a ship, leading it through the ice.

"Icebreaking is very important because commercial shipping on the Great Lakes is very expensive," he said. "There is always a need for it. So if (lawmakers) are trying to expand it, that would definitely be worthwhile."

The Canadian Coast Guard often helps with two icebreakers -- the Samuel Risley, a 240-foot ship that calls Sarnia home and the Griffon, a 254-foot ship based on Lake Erie. "It is kind of like a hand off: they'll take a ship part way and then we take a ship the rest of the way," said Donnie Warriner, operations officer for the Coast Guard in Sarnia.

Warriner said icebreaking is important just "to keep power plants moving and salt on the roads."

USCG Great Lakes cutters with ice breaking capacity are Mackinaw, 240 feet, based in Cheboygan; Neah Bay, 140 feet, Cleveland; Alder, 225 feet, Duluth, Minn.; Biscayne Bay, 140 feet, St. Ignace; Bristol Bay, 140 feet, Detroit; Hollyhock, 225 feet, Port Huron; Mobile Bay, 140 feet, Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.; and Katmai Bay, 140 feet, Sault Ste. Marie.

From the Port Huron Times Herald


Small leak brings early end to Duluth tugboat's season

1/17 – Duluth, Minn. - This wasn’t the way owner Mike Ojard had hoped the tug Edward H. would end its first working season in Duluth — frozen fast in the ice behind the DECC, air temperature minus 11 and a diver in the ice-cold water patching a hole in the boat’s hull.

“It’s really tough to ask a man to do that,” Ojard said. But according to Peter Norick, it really wasn’t that bad. “Oh, I’m hot,” the dry-suited diver said, coming out of the water and sitting on the ice at job’s end. “How are you guys doing?”

The Edward H. was supposed to have ended the season breaking ice to help the Edwin H. Gott and Edgar B. Speer reach their winter berths today. “That was going to be our job,” Ojard said. “It was going to take 18 to 24 hours. But we weren’t sure we could service the account.” So the Edward H.’s crew tied the tug up at the Vista Fleet dock Friday and called the commercial diving firm of P.J. Norick and Sons to patch a pencil-dot-sized rust hole that had developed beneath two pumps in the tug’s engine room.

After cutting a hole through the 8-inch harbor ice, the Noricks prepared for the dive. A full-face mask, thick rubber two-finger gloves and four layers of clothes beneath a dry suit would protect Peter Norick from the ice-cold water. The Noricks claim it’s more pleasant in the water than out on a sub-zero day like Thursday. “I had to drive home with my suit on one time because it froze up,” Josh Norick said.

Suited up and connected to the surface by a safety line and communication system, Peter Norick entered the water. As the harbor’s ice cracked and boomed above him, he ground down a screw inserted though the hole, then applied a patch of fast-setting cement-based underwater compound. A small metal plate, held in place with a rubber gasket and magnets, went over that. From start to finish, Norick spent a little more than a half-hour in the water. With the temporary patch keeping water out of the tug, Ojard will be able to have the rusted area permanently repaired. Other than that spot, the 86-foot-long tug, built for the U.S. Army in New Orleans in 1944, is in great shape, Ojard said.

Ojard, two sons and a grandson formed Heritage Marine 16 months ago and bought the tug, then named the Forney, for $65,000 in Manitowoc, Wis. They renamed it the Edward H. for Ojard’s father, who was chief engineer aboard the historic tug Edna G. An uncle was captain. “I basically grew up on that old steam tug,” Ojard said. “I’ve always had a love for towing vessels.”

The Edward H. had its first towing jobs in September. Things became really busy when the harbor began to freeze — going out daily to break ice in slips and along docks. They are looking for a second tug. “I’m retired, but probably working harder than any time in the past 15, 20 years,” Ojard said.

From the Duluth News-Tribune


Updates - January 17

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 17

January 17 - NORTHERN VENTURE closed the Welland Canal for the season as she passed down bound for Hamilton with coal in 1975.

In 1978, the CLIFFS VICTORY, JOSEPH H. FRANTZ, WILLIAM G. MATHER, ROBERT C. NORTON, CRISPIN OGLEBAY and J. BURTON AYERS formed a convoy in the Detroit River bound for Cleveland.

The PHILIP D. BLOCK (Hull#789) was launched at Lorain, Ohio, by the American Ship Building in 1925.

The tanker GREAT LAKES was launched in 1963, as the a.) SINCLAIR GREAT LAKES (Hull#1577) at Decatur, Alabama, by Ingalls Iron Works Co.

JOHN E. F. MISENER was float launched in 1951, as a.) SCOTT MISENER (Hull#11) at St. Catharines, Ontario, by Port Weller Drydocks, Ltd.

January 17, 1902 - The PERE MARQUETTE 2 ran aground at Ludington.

PERE MARQUETTE 19 grounded in limited visibility on January 17, 1916, two miles south of Big Point Sable, Michigan, 600 feet off shore. The captain made three unsuccessful attempts to find the Ludington Harbor entrance and on the turn around for the fourth attempt she grounded.

On 17 January 1899, the GERMANIA (wooden propeller freighter, 136 foot, 237 gross tons, built in 1875, at Marine City, Michigan) caught fire and burned to the water's edge at Ecorse, Michigan. The previous day, Norman Reno of Ecorse did some painting inside the cabin and it was presumed that the stove used to heat the cabin may have caused the blaze. The vessel was in winter lay-up at the rear of the home of Mr. W. G. Smith, her owner.

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Shipping season draws to a close at the Soo

1/16 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. — “It’s been a challenging couple of weeks,” admitted Capt. Mark Huebschman as the U.S. Coast Guard, commander of the Sault Base as the clock winds down on this year’s shipping season.
The deadline, 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, is looming as a bright spot for those who toil upon the ice-breaking vessels clearing the way for the final runs. But, for now, there is still plenty of work to be done.

Huebschman said there were two ships stuck in the ice down in the Straits of Mackinac on Tuesday afternoon that still needed to get up through the Soo Locks before the season drew to a close and a couple more steaming across Lake Superior from Duluth seeking safe passage before the deadline. He was optimistic that everyone would be where they needed to be before the locks were officially closed.

The Coast Guard reports Capt. Huebschman’s predictions were sound early this morning as both the Edwin H. Gott and the Edgar B. Speer had reportedly entered the St. Marys River at DeTour bound for the Soo Locks and destined for Duluth, Minn.

While it would appear as though the Coast Guard could relax some after the final ship passes on Thursday, that will not be the case.

“We will still have some work in the ice-breaking business,” said Capt. Huebschman, indicating the icebreakers will need to keep an open path on the St. Marys River for winter fuel shipments and will also be responsible for keeping the Straits of Mackinac open for shipping traffic.

“Last year was a very challenging year,” said the commander. “This year is shaping up to be even worse.”

From the Soo Evening News


Twin Ports shipping season comes to an end

1/16 - Duluth/Superior - The shipping season is at an end for Lake Superior. Extreme cold is slowing Great Lakes traffic to a crawl.

The extreme cold is leaving a mark on the shipping industry. Duluth Seaway Port Authority Facilities Manager Jim Sharrow says two ships are still breaking through the ice to lay up in the harbor.

“There is heavy ice in the north ends of lakes Michigan and Huron and the Straits of Mackinaw and in the St. Marys River that has significantly slowed the passage of a couple thousand-foot ships that have been trying to get up here for winter lay up. The season is basically completed on the upper lakes, and ships are just moving to their lay up docks right now.”

And the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder is busy maintaining the channel. “And the tugs have been out breaking out the actual docks ever since mid-December. It’s been a real ice season for lay up. If this continues through the winter, we’ll have real tough conditions in the spring.”

Sharrow says the Edgar B. Speer and Edwin H. Gott are making their last trek on the lake.

“As of yesterday, they had spent about two days trying to get about 70 miles through this ice between Lansing Shoal and the south end of the St. Marys River. So, it’s really tough going, and they had some ice-breaker support along the way too.” Ships travel 400 miles a day in ideal conditions. The Gott and the Speer took the northern route across Lake Superior to avoid rough seas kicked up by high winds.

The Soo Locks close at midnight Thursday with only one ship still to make its way through. Twelve ships are laying up in the Duluth/ Superior harbor for the winter.

From KUWS Wisconsin Public Radio


Coast Guard channel closures on the St. Marys River

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. - The captain of the port Sault Ste. Marie will close the West Neebish Channel effective 1400 local time on January 17. Alternating one-way traffic will be established in the Munuscong and Middle Neebish channels.

The Coast Guard would like to remind all recreational ice users to plan their activity carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels.


Shipments lower at Canadian Lakehead

1/16 – Saskatoon, SK - Despite a surge in grain shipments this fall, the port of Thunder Bay is on track to have one of its smallest shipping seasons ever. As of mid-December, 5.3 million tonnes of grain had been shipped through the Lakehead since the eastern export system opened in March.

Grain movement through the port has been brisk since Oct. 1, with more than a million tonnes shipped during the month of November alone. But with the St. Lawrence Seaway closing Dec. 29, port officials say the year-end total is unlikely to exceed 5.6 million tonnes. The record low is 5.61 million tonnes recorded in 2003.

"We're down fairly significantly from last year and we're not going to make that up," Tim Heney, chief executive officer of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, said Dec. 17.

Last year shipments totaled 6.3 million tonnes, slightly under with the 10-year average. The record high volume was 17.7 million tonnes in 1983, at the height of a two-decade-long era during which the port routinely handled more than 13 million tonnes a year.

Since that time a shift in grain markets to Asia, rising costs of using the Seaway and a growth in direct rail shipments to the United States have combined to eat away at Thunder Bay's volumes.
Grain is shipped from the Lakehead to customers in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

Rick Steinke, manager of logistics for the Canadian Wheat Board, said the board has had a strong eastern shipping program this fall, including both vessels and direct rail movement to terminals in Eastern Canada.
"Over the 10 week period from the beginning of October, I see our total eastern pipeline being up by 68 percent."

He added the board has a robust direct rail program on the books with Canadian Pacific Railway. No agreement has been reached with Canadian National Railway. As for the low shipping season figures reported by the port authority, Steinke said movement was slow in August and September because of low stock levels.

According to Canadian Grain Commission statistics, vessel shipments out of Thunder Bay in those first two months of the crop year totaled 841,000 tonnes. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 7, they totaled 2.1 million tonnes.
Of that, about 73 percent was CWB wheat and durum, and 27 percent was non-board products like canola, flax and oats. A year earlier the split was 70-30, reflecting a relative decline in non-board movement.
Heney said one factor in the lower volumes was a change in the logistics of the iron ore business.

Traditionally vessels would carry iron ore from Newfoundland and Labrador to steel mills in the lower Great Lakes, and then continue on to Thunder Bay to pick up grain for backhaul.
Heney said that changed this year, with vessels instead hauling iron ore from the port of Duluth to steel mills on the Great Lakes, thus reducing the availability of vessels to pick up grain at the Lakehead.
The movement of iron ore slowed dramatically when the economic slowdown hit in the fall, which freed up capacity for the November shipping surge.

From the Western Producer


Canadians looking to expand shipbuilding

1/16 – Halifax, N.S. - A team of opposition MPs from Nova Scotia is calling on Ottawa to stimulate the economy by immediately investing federal dollars in Canada's shipbuilding industry.

The four politicians -- Liberal Geoff Regan, Independent Bill Casey and New Democrats Peter Stoffer and Megan Leslie -- were flanked by about 100 workers at the Halifax Shipyard during a chilly, morning news conference. Stoffer says $22 billion worth of work needs to be done, creating jobs from coast to coast.

Regan says the Canadian navy needs new supply ships and the coast guard needs new coastal patrol boats -- and those vessels should be built in Canada. Today, about 700 work at the Halifax Shipyard, owned by Irving Shipbuilding Inc., but at one time the payroll peaked at 1,700.

Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, says shipbuilding jobs are known to create a large number of spinoff jobs, making the industry an ideal candidate for Ottawa's economic stimulus package.

From the Canadian Press


No earmarks in stimulus,
but Stupak still pushing for lock

1/15 – Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. — Money from the upcoming stimulus package is expected to be funneled through the states, but Rep. Bart Stupak hopes two local projects will get priority even though it has been said there will be “no earmarks” in the bill, a spokesman in Stupak’s office said Tuesday.

But what will be in the bill is still under serious discussion on Capitol Hill.

“I would love to have an outline or give a better picture of what will happen,” said Stupak press secretary Nick Choate. “There won’t be anything like a road project in Marquette or a dredging project in some other town. That money’s going to be directed toward the states ... to then prioritize projects.”

Choate said while a bill will not be on President-elect Barack Obama’s desk after the inauguration on Jan. 20, there is hope the bill will be ready to sign by President’s Day on Feb. 16.

“The economy is priority No. 1,” Choate said. “The congressman is still working with the chairmen of committees. We’re still hopeful and pushing for those kind of things. “(President’s Day) is just a target. There’s no guarantee it will be done by then.”

Building a new Soo Lock, a project which has been approved for more than two decades, and the ice-cutting capabilities of the Coast Guard has been reduced in recent years with the decommission of the Acacia in 2006 and the Canadian government recently decommissioning two of its icebreakers without replacing them.

“Construction of the new Soo Lock and an additional icebreaker for the Great Lakes would spur economic activity in the entire Great Lakes region,” Stupak said in a December press release. “Construction of the new Soo Lock would be the largest public works navigation project on the Great Lakes in a generation and would generate nearly $500 million annually in economic activity.”

Since the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers are federal entities, money for the projects would have to come from Washington, not Lansing.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Corps of Engineers estimates the total cost of a new Soo Lock at $490 million. An icebreaker costs about $150 million. “An additional icebreaker would help ensure the movement of commerce across the Great Lakes through the winter months,” Stupak said.

From the Soo Evening News


Port Report - January 16

Twin Ports - Al Miller
The only vessel traffic in the Twin Ports Thursday was the USCGC Alder, which was on Lake Superior proceeding toward Duluth entry at sunrise. Edgar B. Speer and Edwin H. Gott are both expected to arrive in Duluth Friday for layup.


Retired CSL Captain MacLeod passes away

1/16 - Port Dover - Malcolm Cameron (Mac) MacLeod, retired CSL Captain, resident of Port Dover ON, passed away at Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe ON, Saturday January 10, 2009.

Survived by wife Rhea Catherine (Muth) and son Reverend Malcolm Bruce MacLeod of Linwood NJ. Graveside service was held today at 1100 hours January 15, 2008 at Port Dover Cemetery.

Reported by Dave Otterman


Today in Great Lakes History - January 16

The COLONEL JAMES PICKANDS (Hull#791) was launched in 1926, at Lorain, Ohio, by the American Ship Building Co.

In 1987, the DETROIT EDISON was at Brownsville, Texas, for scrapping, she was raised after being scuttled by vandals.

On her way to the cutters torch, the dead ship ASHLAND was anchored off Bermuda in 1988, when she dragged her anchors and was swept onto rocks. She suffered massive bottom damage but the tow continued.

On 16 January 1909, TECUMSEH (wooden propeller bulk freighter, 200 foot, 839 gross tons, built in 1873, at Chatham, Ontario) burned to a total loss at her winter berth at Goderich, Ontario.

In 1978, the CANADIAN CENTURY and NORTHERN VENTURE departed Toronto for Hamilton with coal after laying up at that port due to the bridge tenders strike which closed the Burlington Lift Bridge to navigation.

On 16 January 1875, The Port Huron Times printed the following list of vessels that were total losses in 1874: Tug IDA H LEE by collision in Milwaukee, Tug TAWAS by explosion off Sand Beach, Steamer W H BARNUM by collision in the Pelee Passage, Steamer TOLEDO by partially burning at Manistee, Tug WAVE by burning on Saginaw Bay, Tug DOUGLAS by burning on the Detroit River, Steamer BROOKLYN by explosion on the Detroit River, Steamer LOTTA BERNARD by foundering on Lake Superior.

Data from: Joe Barr, Brian Bernard, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Saginaw delayed by ice in St. Marys River

1/15 - 8:30 p.m. - Update - Ice has caused a delay of the last vessel to pass thru the Soo Locks this season. The downbound Saginaw became stuck in the lower part of Mud Lake above Point aux Frenes.

Earlier in the afternoon, USCGC Mackinaw was downbound below the Rock Cut, approaching Saginaw from the up river side, and Purvis Marine's tug Avenger IV was upbound below the Saginaw, but traveling at a reduced rate of speed.

By 4:30, the Mackinaw had led the Saginaw down to Lime Island where they passed the Avenger IV. The tug gained speed and continued her trip up the river in the path that had been broken, while the Saginaw was making good time following the Mackinaw toward DeTour.

By early evening, the Mackinaw was headed to Cheboygan, Saginaw was under the Mackinaw Bridge headed for Sturgeon Bay, and Avenger IV was still working her way up the St. Marys River toward the Soo.


Soo Locks close today, reopen March 25

1/15 - Sault Ste. Marie - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will close the for the winter season today. The Corps closes the locks annually from 11:59 p.m. Jan. 15 through 12:01 a.m. March 25 in accordance with a multi-agency agreement regarding St. Marys River Winter Navigation and Soo Locks Operations.

In 2008, 8,461 vessels passed through the Soo Locks, carrying 80.6 million tons of cargo.

The Poe Lock will undergo inspection and maintenance of hydraulic, electrical, structural and other key equipment during the closure. The MacArthur Lock, closed Dec. 15 and is undergoing a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-mandated regular inspection, which is held every five years. During the shutdown, the MacArthur has been drained and is undergoing a thorough inspection of all components as part of the 5-year periodic inspection. All the work will be done by 60 Corps employees, many of whom normally would be subject to a layoff.

The Poe Lock will reopen March 25, its normal reopening date, while the MacArthur Lock is expected to open later in April.

Operation and maintenance of the Soo Locks falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District. Located on the St. Marys River, the locks have been a part of the Corps’ navigation mission since 1881.



Hollyhock repairs completed

1/15 - Port Huron - Repairs to the Coast Guard cutter Hollyhock have been completed, Lt. Commander Jim Bellaire said.

The ship was towed into Port Huron Saturday by the tug Manitou due to an "engineering issue," he said. A problem between the computers and the diesel engines that run the ship incapacitated one of the engines.

Bellaire said the ship could probably have returned to port under its own power, but the tug was used as a precautionary measure. "This is not a major issue," he said. "It's just something that, given the conditions that we have in this river, the only reason that we didn't come in on our own is that it isn't prudent to operate on one engine."

At this point, the Hollyhock can move without problems. "If I had to get underway today, I could get underway today," Bellaire said.

He said he couldn't comment on when the ship would leave port again, citing military security regulations, but he said this is a regular maintenance period for the Hollyhock, meaning it would not normally be in operation at this time.

The cutter Neah Bay from Cleveland, Ohio, made port at Seaway Terminal today, but Neah Bay executive officer Lt. Jeff Barnum said the timing was a "complete coincidence." The Neah Bay came to survey ice conditions on the river, but it wasn't due to the Hollyhock's problems, he said.

Both vessels are part of Operation Coal Shovel, the Coast Guard's annual ice-breaking operation that includes the St. Clair River as well as the Detroit River, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and most of Lake Huron.

"We came up here, took a look at what's going on, staying here for the night," Barnum said. "There are different ships in different positions, so we just move them around to where they're needed."

In addition to the regulations Bellaire cited, Barnum said he couldn't comment on where the Neah Bay will be after tonight because the schedule can change based on weather and ice conditions. "I can tell you for the next 12 hours, but after that it's a crap shoot," Barnum said.

From the Port Huron Times Herald


Port Report - January 15

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algowood had easy time backing down the ice-filled channel Wednesday morning, despite the very cold temperatures and westerly winds the past couple of days. She was on the Sifto Salt dock and loading by 10:30 a.m. She was again assisted by the tug Pride and MacDonald Marine tugs. Algosteel will come in when the Algowood departs.


Essar moves ahead with new mill in Minnesota

1/15 - Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. - The global economic meltdown is not preventing the establishment of an American sister mill for Essar Steel Algoma.

Contractors began work more than two months ago in northeastern Minnesota on the states largest industrial project in more than three decades, Essar Steel Minnesota, a $1.65 billion investment into North America's first iron mine-to- steel-mill operation.

"Work crews were on the site within a few weeks of the (Sept. 19) groundbreaking," said Debra McGovern, government and public affairs spokesperson with Essar Minnesota. "Expectations are that we will be producing (iron ore) pellets in two-and-a-half-years and shipping steel slabs in five years."

A portion of Essar Minnesota's eventual slab and pellet production will be bound for its Sault Ste. Marie sister mill. "We have excess rolling capacity at Essar Steel Algoma," Madhu Vuppuluri, president and CEO of Essar North America, told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune at the groundbreaking ceremony. "Therefore, the slabs produced out of Minnesota can logically be rolled just across the Great Lakes (at Essar Algoma)."

Essar Algoma officials have previously stated that freight savings could be "massive" should such shipments need to travel only across Lake Superior. The multi-ton slabs would need only to be reheated before being rolled into finished product.

Within days of announcing a $1.85 billion cash takeover offer of then Algoma Steel Inc. in April, 2007, India-based Essar Steel Holdings Ltd. announced it was also purchasing St. Paul, Minn-based Minnesota Steel Industries. Minnesota Steel, which controlled 1.4 billion tonnes of high grade iron-ore reserves, also had visions of becoming "a supplier, not a competitor" to steel producers throughout the Great Lakes, a vision that new ownership agreed to bankroll.

The state is providing $66 million towards infrastructure funding and the final hurdle in the massive project was cleared about four months ago when Itasca County, where the operation will be constructed, approved a package that provided utilities and railroad services to the site. The initial phase of development will include the reopening of a former taconite open-pit mine, shuttered since 1985, as well as construction of a two-stage rock crusher, a concentrator, whose grinding mills will produce a high concentrate slurry, and a tailings basin.

Second phase construction will include a direct reduced iron plant, producing an almost pure pellet, an electric arc furnace and a slab-casting plant.

Minnesota Steel, rebranded as Essar Steel Minnesota at the groundbreaking ceremonies, has expectations of a 36-hour turnaround from getting ore out of the ground to slab shipment. Slabs would travel nearly 130 kilometers by rail from the production site, on the Mesabi Iron Range, to the port of Duluth then be shipped to customers throughout the Great Lakes.

Essar Minnesota intends to service a North American steel industry with an 8 million ton annual appetite for slabs, the overwhelming majority of it being imported from offshore. Nobody in North America is producing slabs as a primary product.

Unlike the Algoma process, Essar Minnesota will be essentially an electricity and natural gas-fuelled operation. There will be no blast furnace, no need for coke, the high-carbon furnace fuel being produced from a blend of coals, and no need for scrap steel to mix with alloys to convert liquid iron into liquid steel. Essar Minnesota will produce assorted grades of maximum 30-tonne slabs with a thickness of eight to 10 inches, measuring 40 inches wide by 80 feet long.

As many as 2,000 workers will be needed during construction and 500 permanent jobs, in the $19 to $25 hourly range, will be created along with more than 1,400 spinoff opportunities.

From the Sault Star


University of Michigan to tap Detroit River's current to create energy

1/15 - Ann Arbor, Mich. - In the eerie green glow of flashing lasers in a darkened University of Michigan lab, a cylinder on springs moves methodically up and down in a giant tank as water flows over it, simulating a stream.

Whirligigs of illuminated particles form as the water pours over and under the cylinder in rhythmic patterns.

It looks simple, but it's revolutionary. This is VIVACE, a device to harness energy in slow-moving water currents across the globe and turn it into electricity. VIVACE, which mimics the way fish swim in currents, is to debut next year in the Detroit River, powering the light for a new wharf between Hart Plaza and the Renaissance Center.

"Everybody is excited by this," said Mike Bernitsas, director of the Marine Renewable Energy Laboratory at the University of Michigan and inventor of the device. It's one of a handful of new techniques -- the first in more than 100 years -- to use water to create clean, renewable energy. Since late November, the device has been filmed by Canada's Discovery Channel and discussed in science blogs, journals and the British Sunday Telegraph.

Unlike water-driven mills, turbines or dams, VIVACE doesn't require fast-moving water -- most streams on the globe are slow-moving -- and doesn't harm the environment. VIVACE means "lively" on a musical score, but in this case is an acronym standing for Vortex-Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy.

Bernitsas said he is thinking small so far, but someday an array of 1,000 cylinders offshore could produce the same energy as a large nuclear plant. A smaller grouping, as big around as a running track and as tall as a two-story building, could power 1,000 homes. He came up with the idea four years ago and is developing it with a team of more than 30 students and researchers for commercial use. He patented it and started a company that hopes to manufacture it in Michigan in a few years.

In a stream, small eddies, or vortices, are created above and below an object the current hits. These vortices alternate, creating an up and down lift. For example, a moored boat will bob up and down, and a stick caught underwater in a stream will quiver. Vortices in the air make your car antenna shake if you drive fast.

In air or water, the vibrations can be dangerous if not controlled. Bernitsas, 57, has worked for two decades on ways to control these vibrations on offshore oil rigs. "He was famous for how to kill vortex-induced vibrations," said U-M doctoral student Jim Chang, who works on VIVACE. "Now he'll be known for using them."

What Bernitsas envisions is groups of cylinders in frames on the ocean bed or in streams, perpendicular to currents. As the water flow hits the cylinders, it creates vortices that cause the cylinders to move up and down. That energy drives generators to make electricity, which goes through cables to the electrical grid on land. The size, number and placement of the cylinders depends on the body of water.

In the Detroit River, he plans 21 cylinders, each about 10 inches in diameter and 16 feet long, suspended in frames mid-river on the U.S. side, which will create 3 kilowatts of energy around the clock to power lights on the dock. This electricity is clean, infinitely renewable -- "as long as the sun, the Earth and the moon move as they do now," he jokes -- and doesn't harm the environment.

The cylinders will be far enough apart that fish can swim through them and deep enough to avoid ships, boats and fishing lines. "It's a really creative project," said John Kerr, director of economic development for the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority.

VIVACE's electricity will be cheaper to produce than solar or wind energy -- at 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour -- and cheaper than coal plants if controlling their carbon emissions is accounted for, he said, because the devices are simple and require little maintenance.

The cylinders should go into the Detroit River within 12 to 14 months, followed by further testing. Bernitsas said he can't jump up and down until then, since challenges remain. "Once it's in the Detroit River, I'll be screaming, 'Eureka!' " he said.

From the Detroit Free Press


Historical Perspective:
A page from the J.H. Sheadle’s diary recalls storm of 1913

On the evening of November 8, 1913, the J.H. Sheadle moved into the locks just ahead of the Interlake Steamship Company’s Hydrus. Just preceding the Sheadle was the huge new Canadian vessel, the James Carruthers. A few hours later the Hydrus and the Carruthers had been struck from the surface of Lake Huron with their entire crews perishing and the Sheadle was engaged in a fight for her life in the teeth of the most disastrous storm ever to sweep the Great Lakes.

Built in 1906 at Ecorse, Michigan, the 530 foot Sheadle was in the command of Captain S. A. Lyons, who had had a similar experience on Lake Superior in 1905 with the Angeline. Captain Lyon’s pattern of fighting 16 hours of 70-mile-an-hour gales brought his ship through at a time when 18 others were lost, approximately 32 vessels were wrecked and over 250 men went to their deaths. Continuous snow accompanied the storm and soundings were used almost exclusively to keep the ship located. Needless to say, the men who took those soundings at fifteen minute intervals were subjected to severe exposure but the experience proved to the industry the value of the sounding lead with men well trained in its use.

The following seas inflicted terrific damage on the Sheadle. One of the oilers stood watch at the dining room door, closing it when the Sheadle shipped a sea and opening it when the decks were clear to let the water out of the cabins. The engineers made their position at the throttle more comfortable by rigging up a piece of canvas over the engines. Drums of paint and oil were torn loose and proceeded to smash lockers and bulkheads as though they were paper.

The 70-mile gale lasted from 10 o’clock Sunday morning until about 2 o’clock Monday morning. The whistle was kept blowing continually, but at times the men forward could not hear it over the roar of the storm itself. In the latter hours of the storm the capsized hull of the Hanna freighter Charles S. Price passed less than 1,000 feet away.
The Sheadle carried the name F. A Bailey from 1924 to 1930. Today (July 1949) the Sheadle is still giving a very good account of herself under the name La Salle, with C.R. Gallagher her captain. (Editor’s note: The J.H. Sheadle was scrapped in 1980, under the name Pierson Independent).

Copied from “The Bulletin – Lake Carriers Association” July 1949


Updates - January 15

News Photo Gallery updated

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 15

In 1978, the upbound McKEE SONS, LEON FALK JR, WILLIAM P SNYDER JR, A H FERBERT and CHAMPLAIN became stuck in heavy ice outside Cleveland Harbor. Eventually they were freed with the help of the U.S.C.G. icebreaker NORTHWIND and the U.S.C.G. MARIPOSA.

FORT YORK (Hull#160) was launched January 15, 1958, at Collingwood, Ontario, by Collingwood Shipyards, Ltd.

In 1917, the ANN ARBOR NO 6 left Ecorse for Frankfort on her maiden voyage.

On 15 January 1873, A. Muir began building a wooden 3-mast schooner ("full sized canaller") at his shipyard in Port Huron. Fourteen men were employed to work on her, including master builder James Perry. The schooner was to be the exact counterpart of the GROTON, the first vessel built at that yard. The vessel's dimensions were 138 foot keel, 145 foot overall, 26 foot 2 inches beam and 11 foot 6 inch depth.

On 15 January 1886, the tug KITTIE HAIGHT was sold to Mr. Fisken of Toronto for $3,900.

Data from: Joe Barr, Brian Bernard, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


St. Marys River still slow going

1/14 - 7:30 p.m. Update - By late afternoon Wednesday, the St. Marys River was clear of traffic. The Gott and Speer had cleared Whitefish Point and were headed toward the North Shore route to Duluth. The Martin and Atlantic Huron were headed south on Lake Huron.

1/14 - 1 p.m. - Sault Ste. Marie - Ice continues to slow traffic in the St. Marys River as the Soo Locks shipping season draws to a close.

At 1 p.m. Wednesday, Edgar B. Speer has arrived at the locks. The Edwin H. Gott is in Soo Harbor waiting to follow the Speer up thru the Poe Lock.

In the lower river, The Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin has entered the Rock Cut attended by the USCGC Mackinaw and CCGS Samuel Risley.

On the other side of Neebish Island, Atlantic Huron has decided to go down the Middle Neebish Channel and is being escorted by Purvis Marine's Avenger IV. The two Canadian boats are headed to Nanticoke to unload and lay up for the season.


Former Coast Guard tug Apalachee to become Cleveland museum

1/14 - Cleveland - The U.S. Coast Guard Tug Association will be bringing the former Coast Guard Cutter Apalachee (WYTM-71) to Cleveland in June of 2009 to be restored and presented as a maritime and Coast Guard museum ship.

The Apalachee is a 110-ft icebreaking tug and the sister ship to the USCGC Kaw, which hailed from Cleveland for many years; the latter having provided icebreaking services for, among many others, the steamship William G. Mather, a museum ship currently in Cleveland.

The Apalachee will become an attraction for Cleveland¹s Lakefront revitalization project. As a USCG museum, a platform for educational opportunities, and a working venue for organizations such as the Sea Scouts, Navy Sea Cadets, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Coast Guard and Navy reserves, the Apalachee will become an important destination in Cleveland¹s already growing harbor front attractions.

The Tug Association is seeking volunteers and donations to help in the restoration of the ship. Decommissioned by the Coast Guard some 22 years ago, she is in amazing shape with her paint still in USCG colors. Mechanically, she is sound and fit for sea. The Apalachee was built in 1943 by Ira S. Bushey & Sons, Brooklyn, NY. Her single propeller is powered by a 1,000 horsepower electric motor, driven by 2 Elliot Electric Company generators, driven by 2 Ingersoll Rand 8-cylinder

This "C" class 110-foot tug was contracted for on 8 June 1941. Their design was based on the earlier 110-foot Calumet and Raritan class designs which entered commissioned service beginning in 1934. The newer design simply incorporated changes needed for operations in Greenland waters as well as better fire-fighting capabilities.

Apalachee was commissioned on 26 November 1943. She was the first of the "C" class to enter service. She was assigned to Baltimore, MD where she served
through 1984. Throughout her career, her main missions were law enforcement, search and rescue patrols, fire fighting, and icebreaking when needed. From 11 to 12 June 1965, she assisted in fighting the fire aboard the Columbian motor vessel Ciudad de Nieva near Baltimore. On 13 February 1968, she assisted in fighting a fire on Pier 5 in Baltimore. On 4 June 1969, she assisted in fighting the fire aboard the motor vessel Provence Town, again, near Baltimore. She transferred to Portland, ME on 17 September 1984 where she served until she was decommissioned on 11 April 1986.

The Apalachee is scheduled to arrive at Cleveland¹s Whiskey Island, Wendy Park complex in early June 2009, under her own power, delivered by a 'vintage' crew of former USCG 110-ft tug sailors. She will tie up at the old Coast Guard Station there on Whiskey Island.

Meanwhile, Apalachee needs help. Although she is in amazingly good shape she still needs routine maintenance and painting. Original equipment has been removed and navigation equipment is minimal. Donations can be sent to the address below. Material donations probably do not fit in our post office box so please contact us directly to make shipping arrangements. U.S. Coast Guard Tug Assoc., PO Box 771535, Lakewood, OH 44107

The Coast Guard Tug Association is a non-profit 501 C3 Veteran's organization located in Cleveland, Ohio, whose mission is to preserve the heritage and history of U.S. Coast Guard Tugs, and to continue the camaraderie and Esprit de Corps of those veterans who served in them.

Press release: U.S. Coast Guard Tug Association


Port Report - January 14

Kingston - Brian Johnson
The tug Vigilant I and barge is back on the job ferrying heavy trucks, workers and heavy equipment from Barrack Street dock in Kingston to Dawson Point on Wolfe Island as the windmill project there continues. The tug and barge, assisted by the tug Lac Manitoba, are using the winter ferry route to Wolfe Island while the ferry Wolfe Islander III continues to travel into Barrett Bay, using the Marysville ferry terminal. All three vessels battled heavy winds and shifting ice Tuesday while continuing on their respective runs. The river has frozen over shore to shore with high winds predicted for Tuesday night. The tug Ecosse and barge are tied up in Kingston for the winter.


Coast Guard rescues swan stuck in Black River

1/14 - Cleveland - U.S. Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, rescued a black swan that was stuck in the ice near the Black River Railroad Bridge, Sunday, at approximately 2:30 p.m.

The black swan was recovered by Coast Guard personnel and transferred to the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village, Ohio.

Station Lorain was notified by the Black River Railroad Bridge operator that a duck was stuck in the river near the bridge. Four station personnel, trained in ice rescue techniques, dressed in rescue clothing and gear entered the water. They broke through the 1.5 inch thick ice with their hands to free the black swan from the ice.

The freed swan limped to the shoreline where it was recovered by station personnel and wrapped in a blanket to keep warm. Station personnel transported the injured swan to the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center for aftercare.

"The Guardian ethos is the essence of today's Coast Guard. Our core values remain focused on saving lives and protecting both people and the environment," said Chief Seth Tomas, Officer-in-Charge of Station Lorain. "My crew responded because their commitment to being 'Guardians' would not allow them to sit idle while this swan froze to death in the ice."

Station Lorain is one of several Coast Guard units in the Ninth District with members that are trained in ice rescue procedures to provide assistance to those in need, whether human or animal.

USCG News Release


Sault Michigan Superlock project is 'shovel ready' for stimulus funding

1/14 - Sault Ste. Marie - The United States Congress could decide as early as this month whether to fund a new 1,000 foot lock at Sault, Michigan. If approved in January, the estimated $500 million project, that would take 10 years to complete, could begin this spring.
There is a general consensus that Congress would be asked to endorse $100 million of the total cost to kick start the project in the first year. President-elect Barack Obama, who assumes office on Jan. 20, has indicated he would favor projects that are "shovel ready". Advocates of the new super lock to complement the 40-year-old Poe Lock, agree the proposal meets that criterion.

Jim Weakley, president of the U.S. based Lake Carriers Association, and a commander in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, said, "In fact, [the Army Corps of Engineers] accelerated the design work to the point where if the money gets approved in January, they can start issuing contracts by March, and start digging in June."

The proposed new lock first received Congressional approval in 1986, and over the last 13 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has spent an estimated $20 million on engineering and design work.

In 2007, a mandate for the project was reaffirmed at full federal expense. "I'm hoping it is funded in the stimulus package," Weakley said. "This is a great opportunity for the federal government to boost the regional economy through this single project." But whether or not Congress approves Superlock funding as part of its economic stimulus package will depend on a variety of factors, Weakley acknowledged. The project has the strong backing of Bart Stupak, the Democrat Congressman representing Michigan's First District. Stupak was first elected in 1994, and has been re-elected six times.

In a Dec. 10, 2008 letter to David Obey, the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, Stupak wrote, "President-elect Obama has emphasized that the second economic stimulus will include 'shovel ready' projects. No project meets that definition of 'shovel ready' more than the replacement Soo Lock." Stupak went on to say that the project would have a national impact for workers and manufacturers providing materials, equipment, and expertise. He noted that 80 per cent of the U.S. steelmaking capacity, supporting about 400,000 industry-wide jobs, was dependent on the reliability of the Sault Lock system.

The Democratic Senator for Michigan, Carl Levin, has added his voice in support of the new lock. In a Dec. 18, 2008 letter to Lt. General Robert Van Antwerp, chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Levin wrote that not only would the construction of a new lock generate about 1,000 new jobs, it represented a "critical infrastructure project". Levin explained, "If the one large lock (the Poe Lock) should fail, shipping between Lake Superior and Lake Huron would essentially cease, and the steel and coal-reliant industries would be crippled."

Weakley stressed also the critical role the Poe Lock plays in the American transportation network. He said that 80 million tonnes moved annually through the Poe Lock. If something were to cause it to shut down, 60 million tonnes of that could not be moved by ship because 70 per cent of the U.S. fleets' carrying capacity needs the 1,000 foot Poe Lock. "So the question becomes: Is there 60 million tonnes of capacity that could move by rail? I think the answer is no," he said.

The Poe Lock already is scheduled for an estimated $70 million "asset renewal" over the next six years, including the complete replacement of its hydraulic system. The hydraulic system was responsible for four unscheduled outages in 2008, which delayed shipping on four separate occasions, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report. That same report estimated a $160 million economic loss from a single 30-day outage of the Sault Locks.

Besides the real possibility of mechanical failure shutting down the aging Poe Lock, Weakley said the lock posed a security risk also. "I take the security issue very seriously," he said. "After 9/11, that remains a priority on the U.S. side." He said that the Poe represented the "Achilles heel" of the entire locking system. "As long as there is a single potential point of failure in any system, it remains vulnerable to attack." He said that if "redundancy" were achieved by building a twin lock to complement the Poe, it would greatly reduce the security threat that currently exists.

Despite those arguments, Weakley said the financial support of Congress for the new lock is far from assured. He said that the Lake Carriers Association, which was founded in 1880, and today represents a fleet of 63 vessels on the Great Lakes, would be actively lobbying for the project on Capitol Hill prior to the vote. One of the target groups for the lobbying effort would be the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers itself.

"It is still unclear to me within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where the Sault Lock fits," Weakley said. "I think that is because there are a lot of priorities, and I'm not sure they're using job creation and national security as their number 1 and number 2 priorities."
While the Army Corps has been responsible for most of the engineering and design work for the project over the past decade, he said that the Corps itself is a complex institution made up of eight districts. Three of the Corps' districts are in the Great Lakes system, and five are located in the Ohio River System. Weakley said all eight districts report to a regional division in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Cincinnati, in turn, reports to Army Corps national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Weakley said that the roots of the Army Corps were based on the barge and river system. "They understand how to move cargo on the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers better than anybody in the world," he said. "There is a bias to go with what you know. I also think that there is a lack of understanding at the Corp's national level of the importance of the Sault locks and the Great Lakes Navigational System."

But Weakley remained cautiously optimistic that the new lock will get its funding soon. One of the reasons is Congress need only obligate $100 million of the total cost for the first year. "Remember, there is not enough steel in inventory for this project, so you'd be putting blast furnaces back online to manufacture the steel for the project. In the second year, they could obligate another $25 million," he said.

A second factor making this an ideal package is that there is not a cost share element, Weakley said. Projects for the inland system, however, have to be 25 per cent cost shared through an inland trust fund that is currently broke. He also questioned whether any competing projects targeted for the inland river system had enough design work completed to be ready to go.

Weakley did not reject the possibility that President-elect Obama, as someone from Chicago, familiar with the Great lakes Navigation system, and with respect for the region, could lend his voice in support of a new lock.

"I'm certainly hoping that some of his influence will translate into national priorities within the Army Corps of Engineers and within the funding process," he said.

From Sault This Week.


The final journey of the E.M. Ford

1/4 - Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
- Some say retaining the Great Lakes' oldest freighter would be a costly, impractical venture; others, an incalculable loss to the area's maritime history

As the oldest freighter on the Great Lakes idles away its last days in Sault Ste. Marie, destined for the scrap heap, Don Comtois is scrambling. "Once they're scrapped, they're gone forever," said Comtois, president of the Saginaw River Marine Historical Society out of Bay City, Mich.

The non-profit group has been trying to mount a campaign to salvage the E.M. Ford, a 110-year-old steam-powered cement hauler that has been docked at the Pim Street shipyard of Purvis Marine Ltd. since November. The E.M. Ford was a familiar sight on Lake Huron for decades as it shuttled cement between Carrolton and Alpena, Mich., Comtois said. "She was the pride of the fleet at one time."

For the last 12 years, Lafarge North America has had it docked at its Carrollton cement plant for storage. Lafarge's vessel operations manager, Mark Thomas, said the company had searched in vain for a year for an alternative. He said they approached approximately 25 museums and heritage centres, including the Smithsonian Institution, to put up the costly expense of making the vessel environmentally ready for public viewing. Hazards such as asbestos, lead paints and fuels would have to be removed at an estimated cost of $1 million just "to get it in shape to give to a museum," Thomas said.

Just one group eventually responded —and wanted Lafarge to foot the bill. "That's not going to happen. We're not a heritage centre or a museum."

As for keeping the E.M. Ford afloat, he said its advanced age mean parts and staff are becoming increasingly scarce. "You can't get people to sail the ship. With diesel engines, they don't want to deal with steam," he said. "Unfortunately, that's the way life goes." Comtois said his non-profit group found out about the sale "a day late and a dollar short. . . . They didn't even know about our organization, unfortunately."

He wrote local businessman Jack Purvis in November to request numerous items be salvaged but has not heard back. These include the unique three-storey pilot house, as well as artifacts such as log books and life boats. He said the artifacts would be a valuable addition to Bay City, which is trying to establish for itself as a centre of maritime heritage.

Reached at his office Monday, Purvis said he makes every effort to preserve the area's rich history. "I'm a steam buff. I'm probably the biggest steam buff on the Great Lakes," he said. "Anything that's historic, we try to save." For example, he donated the two engines of the former car-ferry Chief Wawatam to museums in St. Ignace and Manitowoc, Mich., over the last decade.

Parties have already expressed interest in his latest purchase's 1,500-hp original quadruple-expansion engine, similar to the Titanic's. That undertaking won't be easy or cheap. "To take an engine like that, that weighs a hundred tonnes or so, get a crane and build a home for it, it's going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars."

What's unmistakeable is the E.M. Ford's fate: Purvis said Lafarge specified in the sales contract that it be cut up."They don't like to see these boats out there competing." Holding on to the 428-foot long hunk of iron out of sentiment is simply "not practical" from a business perspective, he said. "These people who have these ideas aren't likely to come up with the money to take on something like that." The slowing economy may have bought the E.M. Ford some time. With the local steel plant practically idled, he acknowledged the market for scrap metal is not there right now.

Comtois said the Sault businessman has earned a reputation as a champion of the area's maritime heritage. "People we've talked to said Purvis Marine is very history conscious. They don't just cut things up, they try to find a home for things of historical value. In that respect, they're good people. They have a feeling inside of them for maritime history that a lot of companies just don't. To them, it's just a commodity."

From the Sault Star


Updates - January 14

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 14

On this day in 1970, the IRVING S. OLDS entered winter layup at Lorain to close the longest season in Great Lakes shipping history.

On 14 January 1945, the W. Butler Shipyard built C1-M-AV1 ship LEBANON (Hull#40) was the last vessel through the Soo Locks. Ice was a serious problem. The newly commissioned ice breaker U.S.C.G.C. MACKINAW escorted the LEBANON to Lake Huron. The Locks had never before been open this late in January. They were kept open to allow newly built cargo vessels to sail from Superior, Wisconsin, to the Atlantic Ocean where they were needed for the war effort.

Scrapping began on the CHICAGO TRIBUNE in 1989, by International Marine Salvage in Port Colborne, Ontario.

January 14, 1920 - The Grand Trunk carferry GRAND HAVEN was fast in the ice three miles out of Grand Haven.

In 1977, the CANADIAN MARINER laid up at the Consol Fuel dock in Windsor after her attempt to reach Port Colborne was thwarted by heavy ice off Long Point.

On Jan 14, 1978, the JAMES R. BARKER departed the Soo Line ore dock in Ashland, Wisconsin, where she had been laid-up since August 7, 1977, due to the iron ore miners strike.

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Russ Plumb, Ahoy & Farewell II, Father Dowling Collection and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


GLF footers slowed by ice
Cuyahoga needs help

1/13 - 9:30 p.m. - The Edgar B. Speer and Edwin H. Gott spent Tuesday afternoon battling ice in the Straits of Mackinac west of the Mackinac Bridge. The pair have been traveling in convoy since departing Gary, Indiana after unloading on Sunday. The thousand footers are both headed to lay-up in Duluth.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, the convoy was approaching the Mackinaw Bridge at normal speeds with Katmai Bay leading. By 8:30 p.m. the pair were passing DeTour Village beginning their trip up the St. Marys River. CCGS Samuel Risley is waiting in Mud Lake if there is a need for assistance in the narrow parts of the river.

Cuyahoga had been following the convoy on Lake Michigan earlier in the day, but failed to keep up. Late Tuesday, Katmai Bay returned to help the Cuyahoga which is located west of the bridge, after leading the footers thru the Round Island Passage.


New tanker Algocanada reaches Halifax

1/13 - Halifax, N.S - Algoma Tankers’ newest fleet member arrived in North America early Monday after traveling from Turkey, where it was recently completed.

"The vessel arrived at the Port of Halifax today after a fairly uneventful winter crossing," said Catherine Calvert of Algoma Tankers via email today. "She of course experienced some heavy weather (throughout the trip)."

Also docked in the Port of Halifax at this time is Algoscotia, which is currently working the Atlantic East Coast.

Algocanada is scheduled to come into service once some final items are attended to in Halifax. The vessel will then begin work in the Atlantic East Coast and Great Lakes regions. No formal dedication ceremony is planned at this time.

Reported by Michael Folsom and Mac Mackay


Port Reports - January 13

Twin Ports - Al Miller
After undergoing repairs, apparently to its unloading system, James R. Barker on Sunday moved to its layup berth at Midwest Energy Terminal. The last revenue traffic in the Twin Ports apparently will be Atlantic Huron and CSL Niagara, both scheduled to load at the CN/DMIR ore dock. One of the vessels, possibly Atlantic Huron, was anchored off Duluth early Monday. The final vessels of the season are scheduled to be Edwin H. Gott and Edgar B. Speer, both of which are due to lay up at the Duluth port terminal on Jan. 14. Both vessels were due to leave Gary Sunday evening. Their arrival in Duluth is dependent on weather and ice conditions. Midwest Energy Terminal reports on its website that it shipped a record 22.3 million tons of coal in 2008. The dock keeps records by the calendar year.

Toronto - Frank Hood
The cement carrier Stephen B Roman departed Toronto overnight Friday and was in port Monday morning.

Marinette - Scott Best
Early Monday morning. Algowood arrived off Marinette, Wis., and backed in stern first to Marinette Fuel and Dock with another cargo of salt. The tug Erika Kobasic again assisted with ice-breaking on her trip down Green Bay to Marinette and again departing. The Algowood's load makes for a total of eight loads of salt delivered to Marinette this season, far more than the normal three or four. By 2:30 the Algowood had finished unloading and departed Marinette, heading back to Goderich.


Record year for dock pulls coal trade up for 2008

1/13 – Cleveland – The Great Lakes coal trade totaled 39.8 million net tons in 2008, a slight increase – 1.3 percent – compared to a year ago. The trade was, however, down nearly one million tons from its 5-year average. The dredging crisis was a major factor in the trade’s inability to keep pace with its long-term average. Even when water levels peaked in July and a few cargos topped 67,000 tons, the largest vessels were still forfeiting 4,000 tons of coal each trip.

Superior Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, set a new record for shipments in a calendar year: 22,354,161 net tons. That total surpassed the dock’s previous record by one million tons. Thunder Bay, Ontario, also saw a noticeable increase in its coal shipments.

Loadings totaled 1.7 million net tons, an increase of 22.4 percent compared to 2007.

More information is available at

Source: Lake Carriers’ Association.


Lakes ore trade crumbled in December

1/13 – Cleveland – With a majority of the nation’s blast furnaces idled, the iron ore trade on the Great Lakes took one of its biggest plunges in surely what are decades. Shipments totaled only 3.1 million net tons, a decrease of 42 percent compared to a year ago.

The comparison with the month’s 5-year average was even worse: Shipments were down by nearly 50 percent.

Due to very strong demand for iron ore until just a couple months ago, for the year the trade increased 1.1 million tons over 2007. Shipments also outperformed the trade’s 5-year average by 400,000 tons.
The January 2009 iron ore float will continue the trend of the past couple months. Only 26 U.S.-Flag lakers were in service on the first of this year, a decrease of 35 hulls compared to January 1, 2008. Furthermore, a number of the vessels that were in service as this year began were on their final voyage or voyages of the year.

Source: Lake Carriers’ Association.


Updates - January 13

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 13

13 January 2005 - The GENESIS EXPLORER (steel propeller tanker, 435 foot, built in 1974, at Port Weller, Ontario, formerly a.) IMPERIAL ST. CLAIR & b.) ALGOSAR) sailed from Halifax for Quebec City. She was registered in the Comoros Islands. She is carrying a few members of her former crew for training purposes, but her new crew is African.

On 13 January 1918, the Goodrich Line’s ALABAMA and the Grand Trunk ferries MILWAUKEE and GRAND HAVEN all became stuck in the ice off Grand Haven, Michigan. The vessels remained imprisoned in the ice for the next two weeks. When the wind changed, they were freed but Grand Haven’s harbor was still inaccessible. The ALABAMA sailed for Muskegon and stalled in the 18 inch thick ice on Muskegon Lake.

After lightering 3,000 tons of coal, the a.) BENSON FORD was refloated in 1974, and proceeded to the Toledo Overseas Terminal to be reloaded.

In 1979, the U.S.C.G. tug ARUNDEL is beset by windrowed ice at Minneapolis Shoal in Green Bay. Strong winds piled the ice on her stern and soon she had a 25 degree list. The crew feared that she may sink and abandoned the tug, walking across the ice with the help of a spotlight onboard the ACACIA which also became beset by the heavy ice. The MACKINAW, SUNDEW and a Coast Guard helicopter were dispatched to the scene, but northwest winds relieved the ice pressure and the crew was able to re-board the ARUNDEL. The ARUNDEL sails today as the tug c.) ERIKA KOBASIC.

On January 13, 1970, the lower engine room and holds of the SEWELL AVERY accidentally flooded sinking her to the bottom of Duluth Harbor causing minimal damage other than an immense cleanup effort.

January 13, 1909 - The PERE MARQUETTE 17 was freed after her grounding the previous December.

Data from: Joe Barr, Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Ice causing delays in St. Marys River, elsewhere

1/12 - 10 p.m. Update - By 9 p.m., the Mackinaw, Missouri and Reliance had managed to free the Presque Isle and she was downbound thru Mud Lake. The two tugs were returning to the Soo. The Risley was standing by in Mud Lake as the Philip R. Clarke was passing Six Mile on her way down the river.

1/12 - 6 p.m. Update - Thick ice has delayed several vessels in the St. Marys River below Sault Ste. Marie over the weekend.

Presque Isle remains stuck at the lower end of the Rock Cut. The pair have been there since Saturday. USCGC Mackinaw and Katmai Bay have worked to free her since Sunday without success. The "G" tug Missouri was dispatched from the Soo around 4 p.m. Monday, to assist the Mackinaw, and was on the scene by 6 p.m. The big Purvis Marine tug Reliance is also on scene to help.

Roger Blough, which had waited in the Nine Mile Anchorage to see if the Rock Cut could be cleared, went down the Middle Neebish Channel and is passing thru Mud Lake. Katmai Bay has broken a channel ahead of the Blough down to DeTour Passage.

Canadian Enterprise, which had been stuck below Munuscong Lake near Point aux Frenes, since early Saturday, has made it to the locks with the help of the Samuel Risley. The Risley has returned to Mud Lake and is assisting the Blough.


Port Report - January 12

Goderich - Dale Baechler
With the departure of the Algowood early Sunday morning, Algosteel was able to back down the broken up ice filled channel and make her way to the Sifto Salt dock. She was assisted by MacDonald Marine tugs, and the tug Pride, and was under the spout at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.


Updates - January 12

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 12

The CHI-CHEEMAUN (Hull#205) was launched January 12, 1974, at Collingwood, Ontario, by Collingwood Shipyards, Ltd.

The GRAND HAVEN was gutted by fire on January 12, 1970, during scrapping operations at the United Steel & Refining Co. Ltd. dock at Hamilton, Ontario.

MENIHEK LAKE (Hull#163) was launched January 12, 1959, at Collingwood, Ontario, by Collingwood Shipyards, Ltd. She was used in a unique experiment with shunters in the Welland Canal in 1980. She was scrapped at Gijon, Spain in 1985.

On January 12, 1973, the VENUS had an engine room explosion shortly after unloading at Kipling, Michigan, near Gladstone on Little Bay De Noc, causing one loss of life.

On 12 January 1956, ANABEL II (probably a fish tug, 62 tons, built in 1928) was destroyed by fire at her winter lay-up at the Roen Steamship Co. dock at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

January 12, 1911 - The ANN ARBOR NO 5 hit the rocks close to the south breakwater when entering Manistique harbor, tearing off her starboard shaft and wheel.

The wooden steam barge O.O. CARPENTER (127.5 foot, 364 gross tons) was sold by the Jenks Shipbuilding Company on 12 January 1892, to Mr. H. E. Runnels and Capt. Sinclair for $26,000. The vessel had been launched at Jenks yard on 13 May 1891.

The new EDWIN H GOTT departed Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in 1979, for final fit out at Milwaukee.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Brian Bernard, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.

This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Alder creates frozen highways in Duluth harbor

1/11 - Duluth - With a sound similar to a working cement mixer, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder pushed its way through brash ice — blocks of previously broken ice. The chunks churned against each other and tumbled along the ship’s steel hull. Occasionally, a loud report sounded as a larger floe cracked apart. A red fox crossing the frozen harbor trotted out of the way and turned as the Alder cut off its back trail. A jumble of broken ice blocks bobbed in the Alder’s wake, covered by a thin layer of sea fog steaming from the just-opened water. The Duluth harbor had been mostly covered with ice from shore to shore — until the Alder went to work Friday morning.

“It’s our job to ensure traffic can continue to move the next few days,” Lt. Kenny Pepper, the Alder’s operations officer, said.

The Alder left its dock before 9 a.m. to break ice from near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and up into St. Louis Bay. “We’re going out to loosen up the tracks already established,” Pepper said, referring to the shipping lanes the Alder has regularly steamed since thick ice began forming. “It’s the weather that dictates how much ice forms and how often we go out,” Pepper said.

Driven by two 3,100-horsepower diesel engines, the 2,000-ton, 225-foot-long Alder can cruise through solid 14-inch-thick ice at a steady three knots, its hull protected by an ice belt of steel 11/16ths of an inch thick. Backing and ramming, it can force its way through ice 3 feet thick. Such maneuvers were not required Friday, as the Alder steamed at a steady five to six knots through the brash ice, blocks up to 14 inches thick held together by the comparatively thin ice that formed since the Alder was last through Wednesday. Like a truck plowing snow, the Alder moved back and forth along shipping lanes, laying one track alongside its last. In areas where ships turn, the Alder moved in circles and figure-8 patterns, breaking up ice in areas large enough for a 1,000-footer to turn.

The Alder is responsible for keeping main shipping lanes open; shipping companies hire local tugs to keep slips and areas along docks open.

As the Alder turned again and again, a steady stream of orders, acknowledgements and information came from the bridge. “Right 10 [degrees rudder].” “Right 10, aye,” followed a moment later by “Rudder is right 10.” “Rudder amidships.” “Rudder amidships, aye.” Lt. Cmdr Kevin E. Wirth, the Alder’s commander, kept an eye on his bridge crew as he talked about the ship’s mission.

So far this season, commercial vessels have used the navigable channels the Alder has created in the Twin Ports and Thunder Bay more than 30 times. “Most of it’s economically driven,” Wirth said, adding that last winter the Alder worked a week after the locks at Sault Ste. Marie closed, and resumed working several days before the locks reopened. This year, with the economy and shipping both down, it probably will stop sooner.

The locks at the Sault are scheduled to close Thursday.

The weather, of course, plays a big role in the Alder’s operations. “Twenty degrees makes a big difference,” Wirth said. “When we were out Wednesday the ice was a lot looser. When it’s really cold we have to run right in front of the ships.”

From the Duluth News Tribune


Port Reports - January 11

Marinette - Dick Lund and Scott Best
As Algosteel attempted to leave Marinette around 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, after unloading a cargo of salt, it couldn't get through the ice that had been broken by the Erika Kobasic just 9 hours before (it was a bitterly cold morning). The vessel tried for an hour and ended up back where it started. Algosteel called the Erika Kobasic for help and finally got out of the harbor around 10:15 a.m.

Goderich - Wayne Brown
Algowood arrived in Goderich on Saturday, to load salt at Sifto. She arrived at 11:30 a.m. off the harbor entrance and it took till 2:20 p.m. for her to make it to the Sifto loader, due to the extreme ice conditions.
Four tugs assisted in ice breaking - Pride, Ian Mac, Donald Bert and Debbie Lyn.


Updates - January 11

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 11

The steamer ROBERT S. McNAMARA, under tow reached her intended destination of Santander, Spain on January 11, 1974, for scrapping.

In 1970, the IRVING S. OLDS was the last ship of the season at the Soo Locks as she followed the PHILIP R. CLARKE down bound.

In 1973, the ROGER BLOUGH collided with the PHILIP R. CLARKE after the CLARKE encountered an ice pressure ridge and came to a stop in the Straits of Mackinac.

On 11 January 1962, ARCTURUS, formerly JAMES B. WOOD, was under tow of the Portuguese tug PRAIA GRANDE on the way to Norway to be scrapped when she foundered off the Azores at position 46.10N x 8.50W.

January 11, 1911 - The ANN ARBOR NO 5 arrived in Frankfort, Michigan, on her maiden voyage.

On 11 January 1883, The Port Huron Times reported that a citizens' committee met to help Port Huron businesses. "A. N. Moffat decried the taxation of vessel property. High taxation of vessel property had driven much of it away from Port Huron. He cited the case of Capt. David Lester of Marine City who came to Port Huron a few years ago to live and would have brought here one of the largest fleets on the Great Lakes, but when he found what taxes would be, returned to Marine City."

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.

This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Hollyhock disabled in Lake Huron
Towed home by tug Manitou

1/10 - Port Huron - USCGC Hollyhock reported being disabled, about six miles above the Blue Water Bridges, around noon Saturday. Some kind of failure of the electronics that control the navigation and propulsion systems apparently caused the problem. The tug Manitou was called to provide a tow back to Hollyhock's Port Huron base.

Manitou was underway at 2 p.m. and arrived at the Hollyhock's position a little after 3 p.m. By 4 p.m., the tow was underway down bound and headed for Port Huron. The Manitou had the Hollyhock "on her hip".

The pair passed under the bridges at 5 p.m., turned in mid-river and the Hollyhock was back at her base by 5:20 p.m. Manitou was back at her dock before 6 p.m.


Port Reports - January 10

Toronto - Frank Hood
The cement carrier Stephen B Roman arrived in Toronto overnight Thursday.

Twin Ports - Al Miller
The Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin was loading coal at Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior on Friday morning. The vessel is due next in Thunder Bay. James R. Barker arrived in Duluth Thursday afternoon and docked at the port terminal with assistance from one Great Lakes Towing tug. The Barker reportedly is undergoing repairs at the port terminal, and a large crane was alongside the vessel Friday. It¹s due at the Midwest Energy Terminal dock for layup. Great Lakes Fleet reports the John G. Munson will layup in Duluth. It was due in Thursday but apparently hadn¹t arrived by Friday morning. Edgar B. Speer is due in Duluth on Jan. 14 for layup. Edwin H. Gott is due in Duluth on Jan. 13 for layup. Philip R. Clarke is scheduled to load at CN/DMIR ore dock in Duluth on Saturday with pellets for Gary.

Marinette - Scott Best
Algosteel arrived late Friday evening in Marinette with a cargo of salt, the seventh load of this now extended season for Marinette. The powerful ice-breaking tug Erika Kobasic broke ice for the Algosteel for her entire trip down Green Bay to Marinette. After docking the Algosteel in Marinette the tug Erika was going to help the Cason J Callaway which is bound for winter layup at Sturgeon Bay.


Updates - January 10

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month, new pictures added.

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 10

On this day in 1952, the EDWARD B. GREENE was launched at the at the American Shipbuilding yards at Toledo, Ohio. The 647 foot vessel joined the Cleveland Cliffs fleet. After lengthening over the winter of 1975-1976 and conversion to a self unloader in 1981, the GREENE sailed briefly as the b.) BENSON FORD for Rouge Steel. She sails today as the c.) KAYE E BARKER of the Interlake fleet.

ONTADOC (Hull#207) was launched January 10, 1975, at Collingwood, Ontario by Collingwood Shipyards, Ltd. For N.M. Paterson & Sons. Renamed b.) MELISSA DESGAGNES in 1990.

On January 10, 1977, the CHESTER A. POLING, b.) MOBIL ALBANY) broke in two and sank off the coast of Massachusetts.

January 10, 1998 - Glen Bowden, former co-owner of the Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Company (MWT) died.

In 1974, the W.C. RICHARDSON was towed from her winter berth in Toledo to assist in lightering the grounded a.) BENSON FORD.

On Jan 10, 1978, the tanker JUPITER became stuck in 3 to 5-foor ridged ice off Erie, Pennsylvania The U.S.C.G. tug OJIBWA is sent from Buffalo, New York, to free her, but she too became beset in the ice 3 miles from the JUPITER's position. The JUPITER was lost after an explosion at Bay City in 1990. The OJIBWA is now the tug GEN OGLETHORPE in Savannah, Georgia.

On 10 January 1898, Alexander Anderson of Marine City was awarded a contract to build a wooden steamer for A. F. Price of Freemont, Ohio, Isaac Lincoln of Dakota, and Capt. Peter Ekhert of Port Huron, Michigan. The vessel was to be named ISAAC LINCOLN and was to be 130 feet long and capable of carrying 400,000 feet of lumber. The contract price was $28,000. Her engine and boiler were to be built by Samuel F. Hodge of Detroit. The vessel was launched on 10 May 1898, and her cost had increased to $40,000. She lasted until 1931 when she was abandoned.

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Russ Plumb, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


U.S. Coast Guard no longer monitors old emergency beacons

1/9 – Cleveland, Ohio - The Ninth Coast Guard District is urging mariners and aviators to start the year off right and make the switch to a digital emergency beacon.

Beginning February 1, 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard and other search-and-rescue personnel will only receive distress alerts broadcast using digital 406 MHz emergency position indicating radio beacons. Search and rescue satellites will no longer process older model analog EPIRBs that only transmit on 121.5 or 243 MHz.

The 406 EPIRB's signal is 50 times more powerful than the 121.5 beacon's, allowing satellites to better detect its signal and provide a more accurate search area for rescue crews.

Satellites are not capable of distinguishing between beacon and non-beacon sources using analog frequencies, making only about one in five alerts actually coming from a beacon. Many false alert signals come from ATMs, pizza ovens and stadium scoreboards. With analog beacons, the only way to determine if an alert is an actual emergency is to send rescue crews to the area, which costs thousands of dollars, takes resources away from actual emergencies and puts the lives of responders at risk needlessly.

A GPS-embedded 406 EPIRB can shrink a search area to about 100 yards and can also pinpoint the position of a distressed mariner within minutes. Additionally, the number of false alerts with digital beacons is significantly lower than analog beacons.

"The signal from any emergency beacon activated on the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes and connecting waterways, or on land close to these waters, is automatically routed to the Coast Guard's rescue coordination center here," said Mr. Jerry Popiel, acting chief of the Ninth Coast Guard District incident management branch. "At the RCC, our round-the-clock duty officers assess the signal, determine the appropriate course of action and then dispatch a helicopter, boat or ship to the location to perform a rescue."

EPIRB owners are required by law to provide emergency contact information and a vessel description by registering their beacons with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This lets search and rescue personnel quickly confirm if a distress signal is real, and identify who and what type of boat or aircraft to look for.
It also means accidental activation of an EPIRB may be resolved quickly with a phone call to the owner.

EPIRB users must register their beacons in the U.S. 406 MHz beacon registration by logging in to  Registering your EPIRB is free and easy to use.

Beacon registrations must also be updated at least every two years or when information such as emergency contact phone numbers and other vital information changes.

From Soo Today


Port Report - January 9

South Chicago - Matt M.
Joyce VanEnkevort/Great Lakes Trader were under the loader at the South KCBX dock with a good deal of ice on the bow around 11 a.m. Thursday.


Mining, steel investment still warranted

1/9 - The year 2008 had it all for iron ore mining: an extreme high followed by a deep low as global demand for taconite and steel weakened. But, at least one Iron Range development is escaping the economic crisis, so far.

Announcements of mining expansion, new investment and record profits during the first nine months of 2008 gave way to production curtailments and layoffs at year’s end.

• Production curtailed. In early November, Cliffs Natural Resources announced it will idle three pellet furnaces — two at Northshore Mining in Silver Bay and one at United Taconite in Forbes. The move reduces total taconite pellet production by 300,000 tons per month, about one-third of the capacity of the two operations.

• Layoffs loom. In early November Cliffs Natural Resources filed WARN (worker adjustment and retraining) notification that layoffs could be implemented at Hibbing Taconite, United Taconite and the Empire and Tilden mines it manages in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Federal law requires WARN notices in some cases when the potential for layoffs exceeds 50 employees for more than six months.

• Production halted. In early December, U.S. Steel said it will halt production at its Keewatin Taconite (Keetac) mine and mill unit in Keewatin for an undetermined period. Nearly 400 workers are impacted.

The worldwide slump in residential and commercial construction, a domestic auto industry in chaos and the global credit crisis are to blame, said experts, some predicting a drop in production and profits in 2009 by one-third or more. There also are predictions steel demand won’t return to mid-2008 levels for at least two years.

U.S. Steel officials won’t comment on how the slowdown might impact early 2008 plans for a $300 million expansion at KeeTac, currently under environmental review. The proposed project would boost pellet capacity from 3.6 million tons to 9.6 million tons and create 75 new jobs.
Meanwhile, the biggest investment project on Minnesota’s Iron Range, the $1.6 billion mining to steel making Essar Steel Minnesota, is still on. Why, in the face of such gloomy reports? Because the long range steel demand outlook is still positive, said Essar’s North American President Madhu Vuppuluri.

“We continue to move forward with this project. For the Essar Group, Essar Steel Minnesota is an important part of the group’s North American strategy, which includes our investment in Essar Steel Algoma (an integrated steel mill in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario), as well. We are optimistic that steel demand will return to normalcy in North America and that the current (weak) market is a temporary phenomenon,” Vuppuluri said in a telephone interview.

The company maintains the development of Essar Steel Minnesota is a long-term investment in iron and steel and will serve as a feeder for Algoma. The project is to be constructed in phases and its 1.5 million tons in annual steel-making capacity won’t be fully online for at least five years. Essar Steel Minnesota also will have a 4.1 million ton annual pellet plant capacity and a 1.8 million ton direct reduced iron mill, at various stages of development.

Reuters news service reports prices for scrap steel — a key ingredient in some steel products — have fallen as much as 90 percent in the last few months.

Even though scrap steel prices have plummeted, investment in the future still is warranted, said Michigan State University taconite analyst Peter Kakela. He conceded the short-term outlook is “spotty to bad,” but thinks a rebound could come sooner than many others think, as early as the third quarter of 2009. His prediction for a faster recovery reflects continuing demand for steel from “BRICs,” the nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“Future demand is more international than domestic,” he said. Growth and the need for infrastructure in those emerging nations will continue, although recession may slow the pace.

While growth, and thus steel demand, has slowed, an early December visit to the Iron Range by Banashri B. Harrison, Commerce Minister, Embassy of India, reinforced the view that demand will continue there.

Harrison told a crowd of hundreds that despite global recession, India anticipates 2008 economic growth of about 7 percent.

A mega-stimulus package that includes help for domestic automakers also should boost the near term outlook. Finally, the steel industry as a whole may benefit from its own rapid reaction to the decline this fall.More concentrated ownership than in previous downturns has made the industry more nimble in responding to changing market conditions.

Kakela said the industry’s rapid response and downsizing might mean less inventory build-up and a quicker resumption of production when demand improves.

From Business North


Updates - January 9

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month - New pictures added today
New photos in the E. B. Barber and Cliffs Victory galleries also

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 09

On this day in 1973, the CHARLES M. BEEGHLY was the latest running Interlake vessel when she entered winter layup at Toledo, Ohio.

BAIE COMEAU II was laid up on January 9, 1983, at Sorel, Quebec, and was sold the following April to Progress Overseas Co. S.A., Panama renamed c.) AGIA TRIAS.

January 9, 1977 - The last survivor of the PERE MARQUETTE 18 disaster, Mike Bucholtz, died.

In 1974, a combination of wind and ice forced the beset BENSON FORD, of 1924, from the shipping channel in Western Lake Erie, running aground.

Data from: Max Hanley, Russ Plumb, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.



Marquette’s shipping season closes, tonnages drop off at end

1/8 – Marquette, Mich. - Marquette has seen its last two ore boats of the season. The Lee A. Tregurtha and the James R. Barker arrived at Marquette's Upper Harbor on Tuesday with loads of coal.

The final arrivals marked the end of a slowing shipping season. Shipping across the Great Lakes has dropped off dramatically in the last months of 2008, according to the Lake Carriers' Association, the trade association representing U.S.-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes. "The economy has seized up on us," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the association.

Although full year-end numbers are not in yet, Nekvasil said that the iron ore trade in December was "disastrous," with only two of six Great Lakes iron ore ports shipping the normal total amount of ore for the year. Five of the six ports are on Lake Superior. The sixth port is Escanaba, on Lake Michigan.

The LS&I ore dock at Marquette's Upper Harbor shipped out 6.35 million tons of ore pellets in 2008, slightly above levels for 2007, said Cliffs Natural Resources spokesman Dale Hemmila. The dramatic drop, however, is found in the last few months of 2008. In December, the dock saw 13 vessels, compared to the 37 that arrived in the same month of 2007. "The drop was pretty precipitous," Hemmila said. "It shows a real change in the marketplace."

Although hesitant to make predictions, Nekvasil said that 2009 could also see lower numbers for shipping. "The state of the steel industry and the construction industry will dictate how shipping goes," he said.

Shipping typically opens in the spring around March, Nekvasil said. "But with the way the economy is, we may not see an early start," he added.

From the Marquette Mining Journal


More bad iron ore news from Marquette

1/8 - WLUC-TV of Marquette reported Tuesday that Cleveland Cliffs will be laying off 300 workers Saturday at the Tilden and Empire Mines and that another 70 layoffs are possible in March. Notice of potential layoffs was given back in November.

The TV station also reported that 2009 production at the two mines is expected to be half of the 2008 output and that Tilden is scheduled to be closed for 26 days in July, while Empire is scheduled for a seven week shutdown over the summer.

Reported by Tom Hynes


Ship parking space in Hamilton port's at a premium this year

1/8 - Hamilton, Ont. - The Port of Hamilton is almost out of parking space for ships.

Ten Great Lakes bulk cargo carriers and two tug-barge units are wintering here this year, occupying all but two of the port authority's piers. Four big lakers are at Eastport, close to the Queen Elizabeth Way, and eight on the other side of the harbor at piers north of Burlington Street. That's up from six to eight vessels in the past few years.

Brent Kinnaird, the authority's market development manager, attributes the increase partly to facilities available in Hamilton and partly to luck - where ships were at the end of December, when the St. Lawrence Seaway closed, and where owners want them when shipping resumes in late March.

"It's nice to see us at capacity," he said in an interview. "It helps with revenue and the port's profile, because the ships are so visible. A typical laker is billed $2,000 a month for winter layup, so a quick tally puts the revenue at about $70,000. It also offers an opportunity to local contractors for a wide range of maintenance projects."

Seven of the lakers are operated by Seaway Marine Transport, headquartered in St. Catharines. Tom Anderson, the company's director of navigation and regulatory affairs, said Hamilton was chosen because it's close to the Welland Canal for the start and end of shipping, and because of the availability of good dock space and skilled labor for refit work.

"Our maintenance commenced Monday and will go full ahead until late March. There's a lot of steel renewal and machinery overhauls. Some engines might be stripped down, inspected and parts replaced. Some are multimillion-dollar jobs that go to Hamilton-Niagara contractors, so it's a boost to the local economy.

"We can manage the ships better in Hamilton from our base in St. Catharines, and Hamilton is probably one of the warmest places we can lay up ships. It can be a lot colder and less pleasant to work in Thunder Bay or Montreal."

The visitors are hooked to shore power and water supplies. Most are staffed by a lone ship keeper. All are empty but Michipicoten and Robert S. Pierson, operated by Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. of Port Dover. Docked at Pier 11W at the foot of Wellington Street, they arrived carrying canola seeds for the adjacent Bunge Canada plant. One is being unloaded into a storage shed. The other will discharge directly to the plant as needed.

The 10 bulk carriers, which transport cargoes such as grain, coal and iron ore, are each about 225 metres long. If parked end to end along Main Street, they would cover the traffic lanes from Dundurn Street to Ferguson Avenue.

From the Hamilton Spectator


Lakes limestone trade plunged to Depression level in December

1/8 – Cleveland, Ohio – With the economy in a free fall, shipments of limestone on the Great Lakes plummeted in December. The trade totaled only 528,821 net tons, a decrease of 75 percent compared to a year ago. Loadings were off even more – 78 percent – compared to the month’s 5-year average.

“The Lakes limestone trade is dependent on healthy construction and steel industries,” said James H.I. Weakley, President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The deepening recession has all but silenced the construction industry and idled most of the nation’s blast furnaces. The new Congress and new Administration must enact legislation that will jump start the economy with ‘shovel-ready’ projects such as construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The project will require more than 1.1 million tons of limestone, or more than a month’s production at a large quarry. The lock will also use 25,000 tons of steel, or two full days of production at one of our largest steel mills. Americans need work, and twinning the Poe Lock will generate 1.5 million man-hours over the 10-year construction period.”

The Lakes limestone trade totaled 32.4 million net tons in 2008, a decrease of 5 percent compared to 2007, but nearly 16 percent below the trade’s 5-year average.

More information is available at

Lakes Carriers Association news release


Slow U.S. Grain exports hurt Seaway volumes

1/8 - A sharp drop in United States grain exports through the St. Lawrence Seaway in 2008 more than accounted for traffic that overall fell by 5.35 percent from previous-year levels.

“United States grain was our major disappointment - without that, we would have had a fair year compared with 2007,” said Richard Corfe, president and chief executive of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., the Canadian operator of the bi-national waterway, in an interview.

Grain exports fell to 7.57 million metric tons from 10.41 million tons in 2007. The U.S. accounted for most of the shortfall as shipments slipped from 4.3 million tons to 1.5 million tons. Canadian grain exports were flat at 6 million tons.

The waterway carried a total of 40.7 million tons of cargo in 4,267 ship transits, compared with 43.01 million tons in 4,450 transits in 2007.

Corfe said weaker grain traffic may have been due to corn being diverted from exports to ethanol production. "I don’t believe more grain was moved via the Mississippi River," he said. "U.S. grain often goes out on ocean vessels, but there were fewer of these because there was less steel coming in and because lower freight rates elsewhere attracted ships that might have come to the Seaway.”

General cargo fell to 1.96 million tons from 2.41 million tons in 2007, including steel, the latter on weaker demand in North America. Iron ore shipments were flat, and coal and “other bulk" cargo moved ahead by a half-million tons each.

“We’re in uncharted territory; it’s tough to know,” Corfe said about the outlook for 2009, particularly if the U.S. fails to recover from recession this year.

Hopes for the Seaway to finally achieve a breakthrough in short-sea shipping - with cargoes transshipped through the system to Montreal and beyond from Atlantic North American ports - have been hit at least temporarily by the drop in cargoes from and to China and India, Corfe said.

“We were going to be part of the alternative to West Coast port and intermodal congestion, but the slowdown in the China-India supply chain affects our hopes for that in the short term,” he said. “It will happen, but a year or two later.”

From the Journal of Commerce


Rising Great Lakes levels may give Michigan a lift

1/8 – Detroit, Mich. - Great Lakes water levels are on the rise again after a decade of losses, giving hope to property owners with shrinking beaches, charter fishing operators wanting more room to roam and shipping companies eager to load up their freighters.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predict levels in the Great Lakes will be higher in the first half of 2009 than they were in 2008 - the second year in a row the water will have risen, if estimates prove true. The predictions provide the first insight into what this year's boaters will face on the water. And while it's too early to call the increase a trend, the inches gained in the last 24 months are the first turn back toward the lakes' traditional levels in years.

Small changes in water levels can make a major difference to the shipping industry, and with the largest companies already hard-hit by the struggling economy, every inch counts.

"For much of the fleet in the Great Lakes, an inch of added draft can mean the ability to add another 8,000 tons of cargo," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers Association, a trade group representing the shipping industry. U.S. Army Corps officials attribute the rising lake levels to rainfall and snowfall, particularly storm systems that bring in water from outside the Great Lakes Basin. Locally generated storms or lake effect systems simply redistribute water that is already in the Great Lakes. Systems from outside the region bring in new water -- water that can add to the lake levels.

From a historic low in the summer of 2007, Lake Superior should reach a level that is more than a foot higher by June. The Lake Michigan/Huron system should be up nearly half a foot from 2007, and Lake St. Clair could have risen by 2 inches since that time. The increased precipitation that has fueled the growth in the northernmost lakes has not completely trickled down to Lakes Erie and Ontario yet. While both lakes should be higher than in 2007, they are projected to start the coming summer slightly below last year's levels.

Low Great Lakes levels since the 1990s also have affected recreational users and lakefront property owners. Boats and personal watercraft that once could cruise close to shore can no longer reach the docks due to increased vegetation as a result of shallow water. And the loss of a few inches in water level can mean the difference between living "on the lake" and living "near the lake" in real estate terms.

But for some property owners, the lower water level has been a positive. Patrick Dudley and his wife own the Funky Beach House, a rental cabin along the shore of Lake Superior in Marquette. After buying the property in 1991, they watched for several years as the rising level of the lake ate away at their beach. In the late 1990s, however, that all changed; since 1997, a drop of less than a foot in the water level has meant an increase in the beach of at least 20 feet, Dudley said.

"In the last seven or eight years, it has been nice in terms of the beach," said Dudley. "Having a lot more beach means our guests can do a lot more things, like play volleyball. But I know it has an impact on recreational boating as well as shipping."

South of the Upper Peninsula in Traverse City, Capt. Chris Miles runs Miles Fishing Charters during the warmer months. Back in the 1990s, visitors could easily step off the dock at his home and onto the boat he uses to chase salmon. With the water loss in Lake Michigan, now some visitors have to sit down on the dock first before hoisting themselves into the boat to manage the drop.

"It's made us have to watch where we fish during the season sometimes," Miles said. "The salmon get into waters that have gotten shallower and shallower, and that means you have to be aware of the boat and the depth at all times. We're also seeing more and more weeds growing up in the shallows."

The shallows have been particularly problematic in recent years for Paul Gallas, who runs the Clinton River Cruise Co. out of downtown Mount Clemens. His cruises take passengers east along the river to Lake St. Clair and back. He has learned over the year that in terms of water levels, as the lake goes, so goes the river.

In 2007, Lake St. Clair was more than half a foot below its average level, and Gallas' boats, particularly the double-decker Clinton Friendship, were "just squeaking by." "We watch the levels all the time, and 1 inch or 2 might not make all the difference to us, but moving in the right direction is a good thing," Gallas said.

The lower water levels in the Great Lakes have exacerbated channel and port problems for freighters. Nekvasil said major dredging work in many of the region's ports is long overdue and has been placed on the back burner because of a lack of funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"The uptick recently has been from the large snowpack on the ground around Christmastime that melted and quickly, and then we had heavy rains moving through afterward," said Keith Kompoltowicz, a meteorologist with the Army Corps' Detroit office. "That increases the amount of water flowing into the lakes via tributaries and runoff."

Weather in the next six months will play a key role in determining if the rising waters do become a trend back toward historic levels. An active storm season that brings in more rain and snow from outside the region could help turn the tide.

From the Detroit News


Port Reports - January 8

Twin Ports - Al Miller
Kaye E. Barker arrived Tuesday at Fraser Shipyards in Superior for layup. Early Wednesday it appeared another vessel, probably Lee A. Tregurtha, also had entered the yard for layup. That would make five vessels in the yard but none yet in drydock. American Victory reportedly was to be in drydock over the winter but it has been tied up to a dock. So far, eight vessels have laid up in the Twin Ports, and John G. Munson is due at the port terminal Thursday for layup. CN/DMIR ore dock is winding down but still expected to load CSL Assiniboine on Wednesday. Midwest Energy Terminal is scheduled to load the Hon. Paul Martin on Thursday with coal for Thunder Bay before taking the James R. Barker for winter layup. Two Harbors looks like it will remain fairly busy through this week serving vessels from Great Lakes Fleet. Edgar B. Speer and Edwin H. Gott arrived there late Tuesday, Presque Isle and Roger Blough are due Friday and Philip R. Clarke is scheduled to arrive Sunday. Cason J. Callaway is due at Sturgeon Bay shipyard for layup on Saturday.

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algosteel arrived at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, turned outside, then backed down the channel to load at the Sifto Salt dock.


Updates - January 8

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 08

On 08 January 2004, McKeil Marine’s CAPT RALPH TUCKER was the first vessel of 2004, to arrive at the port of Manistee, Michigan. Once docked at the General Chemical facilities, Captain Bill Sullivan and Chief Engineer Otto Cooper were each presented with hand-carved Hackberry canes. This was a notable way for the vessel to start her last year of operation. Later that year she was sold for scrap.

JOHN HULST (Hull#286) was launched in 1938, at River Rouge, Michigan, by Great Lakes Engineering Works for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co.

On 8 January 1877, the tug KATE FELCHER burned at East Saginaw, Michigan. Her loss was valued at $3,000, but she was insured for only $2,000. She was named after the wife of her owner, the well known Capt. James Felcher of E. Saginaw.

In 1939, several tugs helped release the grounded CHIEF WAWATAM, which had been aground since January 3.

In 1974, the BENSON FORD, of 1924, became beset by ice in Western Lake Erie.

January 8, 1976, the LEON FALK JR. closed the season at Superior, Wisconsin, after she departed the Burlington-Northern ore docks.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Brian Bernard, Max Hanley, Jody Aho, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Ice slowing late season shipping

1/7 – Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. - Tuesday morning, the USCG icebreaker Mackinaw was assisting the tug Joyce L. Van Enkevort and barge Great Lakes Trader and the Canadian Enterprise downbound through the Rock Cut, in the lower St. Marys River. At the same time, USCG Katmai Bay was leading CSL Assiniboine and Kaministiqua up river on the east side of Neebish Island.

Later in the day, Mackinaw assisted down bounders Philip R. Clarke and Atlantic Huron in the lower St. Marys River.

Elsewhere Tuesday, USCGC Neah Bay was escorting the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin up the Detroit River from Lake Erie.


Port Reports - January 7

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algowood came in through the night Monday and loaded at the Sifto Salt dock on a very cold Tuesday morning. Frontenac fought heavy ice to get to her lay up berth in the Inner Harbor. She was assisted by MacDonald Marine tugs.

Milwaukee - John N. Vogel
At about 12:45 Tuesday afternoon, American Steamship's Burns Harbor backed under the harbor bridge on its way to its winter berth at the south end of the inner harbor. Additionally, LaFarge's two tug and barge combinations, the tug Samuel de Champlain and barge Innovation and tug G. L. Ostrander and barge Integrity, have been docked at the LaFarge elevator for the last few weeks and are in for the winter as well.

Marquette - Rod Burdick
Tuesday morning at the Upper Harbor ore dock, Lee A. Tregurtha unloaded coal into the hopper while James R. Barker waited off the Upper Harbor for the Tregurtha to finish unloading. The Tregurtha departed early in the afternoon for Fraser Shipyards in Superior for lay-up, and the Barker took Tregurtha's place and unloaded coal into the hopper. James R. Barker is the last scheduled vessel into Marquette for the 2008-2009 season. Mesabi Miner opened Marquette for the season on March 18, 2008.

Cheboygan - Brent Michaels
The tug Michigan with barge Great Lakes arrived late this morning to off load at the BP Terminal in Cheboygan, Mich.

Sarnia - Barry Hiscocks
Mississagi arrived at Sarnia, Ont., for winter lay up Monday. She's tied up at the east end of the Government Dock. Ojibway was moved off that dock and is now rafted to the Mississagi. West end of the Government Dock will be reserved as usual, for CCG vessels as they rotate in and out of Sarnia. Peter R. Cresswell was out east of 11 & 12 cleaning her holds and was due for the North Slip for lay up, but there may have been a change of orders.


Ex-McAllister tug renamed

1/7 – Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – The former McAllister Towing and Transportation tug Michaela McAllister has been renamed Prentiss Brown. The tug is currently undergoing a refit at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., for its new owner, Port City Tug Inc., of Muskegon, Mich. The tug was built in 1967, and prior to arriving on the Great Lakes in 2008 served on saltwater.


Montreal port announces record-breaking 2008

1/6 - Montreal - The Montreal Port Authority - which had a record-breaking 2008 - said it hopes "to beat" the current recession by focusing on strategic investment and a plan for when the economy rebounds, the agency's CEO said Tuesday morning. "According to preliminary figures, container traffic should reach 1,460,500 units, up 7.2 per cent in 2008, which is an exceptional result achieved despite the economic slowdown that affected us during the last two months of 2008," Patrice Pelletier, president and Chief Executive Officer of the port authority, said.

The port's total traffic should reach 26.6 million tonnes, up about 2.5 per cent compared to 2007, which was already a historic year for the port. The Port of Montreal - one of three container ports in Canada - achieved the highest growth rate among North America's 10 main container ports, he said.

Looking ahead, the Port of Montreal expects containerized cargo tonnage handled at the port in 2009 to drop by 3.7 per cent against 2008. But this tonnage level will still be 2.7 per cent higher than that of 2007. Expenses have been reduced but employment-related costs along with expenses related to strategic investment will remain intact, Pelletier said.

The port expects the federal government to move soon on its pledge to invest $2.1 billion in trade gateways, primarily the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes corridor, he said. The port's share of those funds will be used to further its ambitious plan - Vision 2020 - that would triple its annual container-handling capacity to 4.5 million units and more than double its impact on Greater Montreal's economy.

Towards the end of 2009, the port will seek expressions of interest to build a new container facility on authority-owned land. That new facility could be built in either Montreal East or Contrecoeur or both locales, Pelletier said in an interview.

This morning also saw the formal presentation of the gold-headed cane to the captain of the first ocean-going vessel to arrive in the Port of Montreal after a non-stop voyage. The Maersk Patras, which left the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands on Dec. 23 arrived at the Port of Montreal at three minutes after midnight on New Year's Day.

From the Montreal Gazette


Last tall stack steamer on West Coast scrapped

1/7 - Avalon, Calif. - The island town of Avalon didn't want the S/S Catalina, which for 50 glorious years ferried about 25 million people to its shores. Neither did the Port of Los Angeles, or harbors in San Diego, Vancouver and Honolulu. And, finally, neither did the Port of Ensenada. That's why Mexican demolition workers are putting an end to a three-decade campaign to preserve the once-proud steamship by cutting the 302-foot vessel apart for scrap.

"It's just horrible, they're demolishing her as we speak," said David Engholm, who was a fan of the Catalina as a boy, met his wife because of the ship and finally was married on its deck nearly 20 years ago. "We tried so hard to save her," he said. "Half of her funnel was still on the ship last month, but now it's gone. It's very sad."

Built at a cost of $1 million by onetime Catalina Island owner and chewing gum mogul William Wrigley, the Catalina plied the ocean between Wilmington and Avalon daily between 1924 and 1975. Along with a 26-mile ocean voyage, a $2.25 round-trip ticket offered 2,200 passengers big-band orchestra music for dancing, children's entertainment by clowns and magicians, and adult amenities such as a leather settees and drinks from a shipboard bar.

Smaller, faster ferries connecting the mainland and the island eventually spelled doom for the huge steamship, known for its crisp white paint job and deep, melodious horn that announced its departure. Its arrival in Avalon would be heralded by circling speedboats. Children would dive into the water for coins tossed over the rail by passengers as island townspeople sang to passengers walking down the 25-foot gangplanks. "They were probably poor kids trying to make a buck," former passenger Dorothy Weil of Bel-Air recalled Monday. Although she was too young to drink at the ship's bar, there was dancing to its orchestra -- an unforgettable experience for a teenager in the 1940s.

During World War II, the 1,766-ton vessel with its twin 2,000-horsepower engines and football-field-size steel decks was used as a military transport. It carried 820,199 troops around San Francisco Bay before being returned to Los Angeles.

As it continued its island runs, the ocean cruise-like ship was designated a Los Angeles historical cultural landmark and a state historical landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But after its retirement following its 9,807th Catalina Channel crossing, the ship passed through several hands and sat unused for two years before a Beverly Hills developer purchased it as a Valentine's Day gift for his wife at an auction. Hymie Singer's $70,000, spur-of the-moment purchase came after the couple's 32-foot cabin cruiser sank.

Ballooning dockage fees forced Singer to move the Catalina from the San Pedro area to Newport Beach, San Diego, Santa Monica Bay and Long Beach. A 1983 plan to rehabilitate the ship and return it to island service failed. The unmanned ship twice broke loose from its moorings off Long Beach. On the first unauthorized jaunt, it ran aground. On the second, in 1985, it nearly collided with the tanker Exxon Washington before taken into tow by a tugboat that just happened to be in the area.

When the Coast Guard announced plans to seize the ship, its owner had it towed to Mexican waters, where it was promptly confiscated. It was later towed into the Ensenada harbor, where developers announced plans to convert the Catalina into a floating tourist attraction with shops, a restaurant and a disco after authorities released it. That plan foundered and the ship fell into further disrepair. After its solid bronze propellers were removed as part of a governmental requirement that stripped active registration from vessels unable to move under their own power, the Catalina began to sink.

Many of those who have watched the steamship's sad decline and rusty descent into the mud of Ensenada's harbor suggest that it sank because of water that leaked in through seals used to plug the propeller openings. Others blame damage by thieves who have looted other equipment from the ship's engine room.

Engholm is a 44-year-old property manager who lives in Coos Bay, Ore. He met his wife-to-be while visiting Ensenada to see his favorite steamship's renovation into a tourist attraction. They married aboard the moored vessel in 1989. The Engholms have salvaged some of the Catalina's original lighting fixtures, benches and cushioned seats for their home -- as well as one of its 2 1/2 -ton gangplanks. They also have a huge collection of photos and other memorabilia from its ferry days.

Among David's prizes is an audiotape of the ship sounding its horn and the orchestra playing "Avalon" as it pulled out of Catalina's harbor. Engholm taped it on a small cassette recorder in 1973. "I tried to save the pilot house. But the demolition company didn't get the word in time and tore it off the ship," Engholm said. "I'm happy to show people the collection. If you're in Coos Bay, just give me a call. I'm listed."

From the Los Angles Times


Updates - January 6

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month - New pictures added today
New photos in the E. B. Barber and Cliffs Victory galleries also

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 07

07 January 1974 - The EDMUND FITZGERALD (steel propeller bulk freighter, 711 foot, 13,632 gross tons, built in 1958, at River Rouge, Michigan) lost her anchor in the Detroit River when it snagged on ice. It was raised in July 1992. The anchor is six feet tall and 12 feet wide and weighs 12,000 pounds. It now resides outside the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan.

On January 7, 1970, the e.) ONG, a.) REDHEAD of 1930, had her Canadian registry closed. The tanker had been sold for use as a water tender at Antigua in the Lesser Antilles and had departed Toronto on December 1, 1969. In 1970, ONG was renamed f.) WINDOC.

Data from: Joe Barr, Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.

This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Port Report - January 6

Twin Ports - Al Miller
As the season nears its end, Twin Ports shipping is concentrated on the Midwest Energy Terminal and CN/DMIR ore docks. Atlantic Huron departed Midwest Energy Terminal overnight Sunday and the James R. Barker was at the dock near daybreak Monday. It will load coal for Marquette then is scheduled to return to the dock for winter layup. Meanwhile, Canadian Enterprise is scheduled to load there on Friday. The CN/DMIR ore dock was busy handling Philip R. Clarke and Cason J. Callaway on Sunday. Edwin H. Gott was due there Monday. The Twin Ports generally has 18 inches of ice cover, and several vessels have been seen using tugs to clear ice from slips so the vessel can get close enough to tie up.

Rochester, NY - Tom
Stephen B. Roman departed Rochester, N.Y. at about 8 a.m. Monday for Picton, Ont.


Today in Great Lakes History - January 06

While under tow heading for scrap, the HARRY R. JONES went aground at Androsan, Scotland, on January 6, 1961, and it wasn't until February 15 that she arrived at her final port of Troon, Scotland.

January 6, 1999 - The Dow Chemical plant in Ludington, Michigan, announced a plan to close its lime plant, eliminating the need for Great Lakes freighters to deliver limestone.

In 1973, the JOSEPH H. THOMPSON ran aground at Escanaba, Michigan, after departing that port.

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Weather and ice causing delays in Soo area

1/5 - Sault Ste. Marie - Heavy weather on Lake Superior caused a number of upbound boats to seek shelter early Monday. Edwin H. Gott, Lee A. Tregurtha and Algonova are anchored in Whitefish Bay, The National Weather Service has a gale warning in effect for Lake Superior until 4 p.m. Monday with 40 knot winds, freezing spray, snow showers and waves 11 to 15 feet high. Winds are predicted to diminish to 15 to 20 after midnight and down to 4 to 7 feet on Tuesday.

The down bound Paul R. Tregurtha in on the hook in Waiska Bay, and up bound Edgar B. Speer has been delayed at the locks. Ice was causing problems opening the upper gates on the Poe Lock.

Meanwhile, below the locks, USCGC Katmai Bay is working near the Neebish Island ferry dock to free the Algosar from ice, while John B. Aird waited in lower Lake Nicolet. By 3 p.m., Katmai Bay was leading Algosar toward Lime Island and DeTour, while the Aird was exiting the Rock Cut.

Traffic was back to normal by 7:30 p.m. John D. Leitch was following Paul R. down to the locks, and the Speer had locked thru up bound.


Updates - January 5

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Gallery updated - Chief Wawatam featured this month
New photos in the E. B. Barber and Cliffs Victory galleries also

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 05

The keel was laid January 5, 1972, for the ALGOWAY (Hull#200) at Collingwood, Ontario, by Collingwood Shipyards, Ltd.

The wooden tug A. J. WRIGHT caught fire on 5 January 1893, while laid up at Grand Haven, Michigan. She burned to the water's edge. Her loss was valued at $20,000. She was owned by C. D. Thompson.

In 1970, the PETER REISS broke her tail shaft while backing in heavy ice at the mouth of the Detroit River.

On January 5, 1976, Halco's tanker CHEMICAL TRANSPORT cleared Thunder Bay, Ontario, closing that port for the season.

Data from: Joe Barr, Brian Bernard Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Manitowoc Marine Sold

1/4 - Manitowoc, WI - The Manitowoc Company has completed the sale of its Marine segment to an Italian shipbuilder, the company announced Friday.

Manitowoc Marine Group sold for $120 million to Fincantieri Marine Group Holdings. The Manitowoc Company expects to use the after-tax proceeds of the sale for debt reduction and other corporate purposes, according to a news release.

Manitowoc Marine Group is a shipbuilding, ship repair, and ship conversion company that operates facilities in Sturgeon Bay and Marinette in Wisconsin and a facility in Cleveland. The group serves commercial, military and government customers that operate vessels both on and off the Great Lakes. The company employs 1,587 at its Bay Shipbuilding, Marinette Marine and Cleveland Shiprepair operations.

"We are now entirely focused on two strategic lines of business: cranes and commercial food service equipment," Manitowoc Chief Executive Officer Glen E. Tellock said in the news release. "We have built market leadership positions in both of these global markets, and now will be able to direct all of our efforts on growing these two businesses even further. While the company was founded as a shipbuilder in 1902, in recent years we have pursued growth in markets where we have stronger competitive positions and opportunities."

The Marine business had sales of $321 million in 2007 and operating earnings of $26 million the same year. Effective at the end of Wednesday, the transaction is expected to generate a 2008 per-share, after-tax gain of approximately 60 cents.

From the Manitowoc Herald Times


Toronto sugar plant worries ships will wake condo owners

1/4 – Toronto, Ont. - It's a rather romantic idea: Massive sugar-bearing freighters travelling low in the water, their gargantuan hulls weighted by the sweet bounty of Brazil. Even more seductive is the idea of watching that journey conclude beneath the silvery light of the moon from high atop your waterfront love nest. Until the captain hits the horn.

"Our concern is, while we can make the plant reasonably quiet, ships are not quiet," says Jonathan Bamberger, president of Redpath Sugar, a 50-year-old facility at the foot of Yonge Street, smack in the heart of a rapidly developing section of Toronto's waterfront. "When the ship comes in it might turn around, it might arrive at 2 in the morning. The horn blows, the cranes move," he says, adding, "It's not good to have condominiums right next to something that is a 24-hour operation outside."

As the city's plans to redevelop Toronto's waterfront move forward, old elements like the Redpath plant are being incorporated. The condo project in question is Pier 27, to be built immediately west of the plant by Cityzen Development Group. "Where else can you get a view like this?" partner Joseph Cordiano says of the waterfront site. "There is a lot of activity, a lot of life."

Construction is to begin in spring, and Cityzen hopes to have at least one of the two buildings completed 30 months after breaking ground. There will be 685 units over both buildings; about 70 per cent have been sold. Because the buildings will butt up against the property line, bylaws required the company to design noise-shielding elements.

Potential buyers expect a certain level of water traffic, Cordiano says, adding it won't be much more intrusive than the clatter of streetcars elsewhere. "In the summer it's quite a pleasant thing to sit here and watch the vessels go by."

Units were selling this fall despite the economic downturn, says Cordiano, former Ontario minister of economic development and trade. "If there is a silver lining in this, it is that construction prices are starting to fall and material prices are starting to fall a little bit, so we are getting off the peak of pricing."

Sugar production and sales are expected to remain stable. Bamberger is working with the developers to make sure the plant and residents can live side-by-side. Everyone involved admits that if it's handled properly there is something rather romantic about watching the ships come in. "The most boring waterfronts in the world are the ones that have been sort of sterilized and sanitized," says John Campbell, president and chief executive officer of Waterfront Toronto, the agency responsible for directing waterfront revitalization. "So in the Redpath situation we have gone through a fairly extensive process of saying, `How are we going to do this in a way that both sides can live together and co-exist?'" To Campbell's mind, it's poor waterfront planning to design it for pre-cast condos and sailing slips, but little else. "The shipping is what gives the harbor its excitement."

Founded in 1854, Redpath Sugar Ltd. is Canada's oldest sugar refiner and has its roots in Montreal, but is now a wholly owned subsidiary of American Sugar Refining Inc. The Toronto site, opened by Queen Elizabeth, was completed in 1959. There is so much history tied to Redpath, the plant has its own museum, open free to the public.

That the product produced here is sugar makes it seem a benign form of industry, but it is industry nonetheless. Potential noise is really only a problem at night, Campbell says. The ships that bring in raw sugar from tropical ports are often more than 120 metres long. Ships that size are exceptionally expensive to operate so they must be unloaded as quickly as possible, regardless of the hour they arrive. Massive cranes and metal scoops empty the ship's hull, moving swiftly about 21 metres above the dock.

The pier ends up smeared with a sweet slurry of raw sugar and water that pools into murky puddles and forms a thick paste that squelches under boots. It has a predictably sweet and slightly musty scent, like unfinished beer. Microscopic particles stirred up by the massive cranes and backhoes used to shift the raw material are carried by the wind. Those particles can settle to form a thin, crystalline coating on nearby surfaces. Campbell said studies to determine if the sugar runoff was corrosive or created any health hazards revealed no concerns.

Just east of the sugar dock, past the site of a future park to be called Sugar Beach, is the Corus Entertainment building being constructed by the Toronto Economic Development Corp. (TEDCO). "One of the beauties of the city of Toronto's waterfront plan is to mix the uses," says Jeffrey Steiner, TEDCO's president and chief executive officer. "But that also brings about challenges, because you can't always have heavy industry right next to a university or condominium or house."

Though the sugar dust is not toxic, it could cause other problems, so elaborate plans have been made to clean the office building and air vents have been incorporated to deal with the occasions when sugar dust might billow over the site. The Corus building was also designed to act as a noise buffer for its occupants and people who will live in the residential area planned further east.

Finding ways to work shipping into future development is essential to Toronto's waterfront, Campbell says, adding that about 250 ships visit it each year. "It would be a real loss if we lost the shipping."

From the Toronto Star


Port Reports - January 4

Sturgeon Bay - Wendell Wilke
Mississagi was taken out of the graving dock Friday and was moved to the steel dock facing south, tentatively to leave Saturday; still remaining in the graving dock is the tug Prentiss Brown under renovation. She is the former Michaela McAllister.

South Chicago - Steve Bauer
Lee A. Tregurtha was loading coal at the KCBX south dock on Friday. Algowood departed the Chicago Export Terminal dock below 106th St. on the Calumet River at 3pm Saturday after discharging a load of salt. The vessel was assisted by the "G" tugs Massachusetts on the bow and South Carolina on the stern.

Goderich - Jacob Smith
On Saturday, the Cuyahoga was into port and loaded grain, while the Agawa Canyon was loading at the Sifto salt dock.


Updates - January 4

News Photo Gallery updated

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 04

On January 4, 1978, the IRVING S. OLDS was involved in a collision with the steamer ARMCO while convoying in heavy ice in the Livingstone Channel of the lower Detroit River. The OLDS hit a flow of heavy ice, came to a complete stop and the ARMCO, unable to stop, hit the OLDS' stern.

In 1952, the car ferry SPARTAN (Hull#369) was launched at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Christy Corp.

Data from: Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.

This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Slowing economy means early winter layup for lakers

1/3 - There are still a couple of weeks in the Great Lakes shipping season, and Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., will stay open until Jan. 15. But the recession has dried up business, and a number of Great Lakes ships tied up for winter early.

It was still October when the 730-foot long Edward L. Ryerson would be tying up for winter at Duluth, Minn. That was with more than two months left before ice closed lake shipping for the season. Since then, more ships have joined the Ryerson, tied up at docks including those in Superior's Fraser shipyards. Dozens more are idled in other Great Lakes harbors, several weeks earlier than normal.

It was a surprising turnaround to a promising shipping season, according to Adolf Ojard, who directs the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. "This year started out very strong," Ojard said. "We expected to see record coal, and we still may, as well as record iron ore. These are near-term records on iron ore that I'm talking about. "All of a sudden, October started to hit and by November, tonnage was falling off drastically," Ojard continued. "Now we're into early layup, so we're not going to have anywhere near the season that we had originally anticipated."

October is when the economy took a drastic turn for the worse, pushing down the Dow Jones industrials, the steel industry and the region's taconite mines with it. A harbor feels it when cargo stops moving. There's money made for every ton of cargo moved. It creates jobs for railroad and dock workers, the people who sell ship provisions like food and fuel, and others, like ship inspectors.

James Weakley is president of the Lake Carriers Association, whose members own the cargo ships that ply the Great Lakes. Weakley said two of the lakes' three primary bulk cargoes have been hard hit by the economy -- limestone, which is used in construction, and taconite for the steel industry. "Towards the end of the year, the bottom fell out quicker than certainly I anticipated, so we had ships laying up early in the season," Weakley said. "And more of them laying up than probably I've seen since the early '80s."

The first ships to tie up were the least efficient, including older and smaller ships that can't compete with the efficiency of the bigger vessels. "The smaller the boat, the less efficient the carrier, the more likely it is to lay up earlier in the season. Our thousand-footers, our largest boats, will be out towards the end," Weakley said. "We still have quite a bit of coal to move out of the Duluth-Superior harbor to the lower lakes. So, we'll still have boats that will be out right until the locks close on the 15th of January, and hopefully some of those ships will be out when the locks open up again."

Now, Weakley wonders how the coming season might shape up. He describes shipping as a lagging indicator that won't pick up until the industry does. "The last report I heard was 20 of the 29 blast furnaces in North America are currently idled, so we'll have to see how that plays out and how our business can get back," he said.

Eleven ships are scheduled to winter in Duluth and Superior. That's not a bad thing, according to port director Ojard. Each ship will generate $500,000 or more in local business. There's a small industry maintaining the ships for winter. "There's a lot of work that goes on during the winter months," Ojard said. "This is two months of catch up on maintenance. There's main engine overhauls. There's a lot of inspection that goes on."

And there's always reason to be hopeful. While the next shipping season may start off slowly, Ojard thinks a federal program to build new infrastructure could quickly help shipping. "If we have a stimulus package, we're going to see a lot of limestone being moved for aggregate business, for highway construction, etc.," Ojard said. "And if there's any recovery in steel capacity that, again, is tied to the stimulus package, we could see a rebound in the iron ore production by the second quarter or start of the
third quarter."

It may not be a bad year to tie up early for another reason -- winter has set in with a vengeance. There's already 18 inches of ice in the Duluth harbor. That puts harbor tugs to work pushing ships through the ice, but it drives up the cost to ship owners.

From Minnesota Public Radio


A shipshape goal for two historic fish tugs

1/3 - Leelanau, Mich. - Mark Nugent and Ryan Valerio spend fall, winter and the early part of spring working on boats so they can sail during the warmer months.

Nugent is owner of Manitou Boatworks and Engineering, and Valerio is his ³steel specialist.² The two-man crew is currently completing its survey of the fish tug Joy at the Northport Bay Boatyard annex in Northport. ³We work as much as we can get during the fall, winter and spring so when sailing season comes we can be out on the water,² Valerio said.

When the Fishtown Preservation Society made arrangements to buy Fishtown in Leland from the Carlson family in 2007, the purchase included the two historic fish tugs, Joy and Janice Sue. The Janice Sue celebrated its 50th birthday this year, while the Joy was built nearly 28 years ago. According to Dan McDavid, a Fishtown Preservation Society board member, the tugs had been inactive and moored at Fishtown for the past four years prior to being moved in October.

"It has always been our intention in preserving Fishtown to keep it as a viable economic force not just for tourism but for commercial fishing as well," said Craig Miller, president of the society. While the group has been successful enough in fundraising to secure a mortgage on the property, Miller said it will always be a bit of a battle raising enough funds to make payments while providing for the maintenance and operation of the historic area.

Last spring, the society began a project to make the two fish tugs safe for fishing on Lake Michigan. Nugent and Valerio were brought in to identify mechanical, electrical, structural and safety issues that needed addressing to make the tugs seaworthy. Once Manitou Boatworks completed the initial survey, McDavid said the society hired a company out of Frankfort, The Boat Doctors, which specializes in on-site marine maintenance and repairs. "It took most of the summer to get the two vessels seaworthy enough to make the trip and receive appropriate insurance coverage," he said.

The Coast Guard conducted an on-site inspection on Sept. 22 and cleared them for the journey from Leland to Northport Bay Boatyard docks. McDavid said the trip around the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula took 3-1/2 hours in choppy water.

The Joy and Janice Sue have been at the Northport boat repair shop since early October. McDavid said work on the metal-hulled tugs started intermittently since the fall is a busy time at the boatyard. Now, however, Don Thyer, one of the Northport Boatyard owners, and his crew are busy restoring the Janice Sue. "The hull on the Janice Sue from the waterline down is a quarter-inch thick and when we got her indoors after the sandblasting, you could see how pockmarked the metal was," he said.

McDavid, who chairs the preservation society¹s boat committee, said Pro-Tech Environmental and Construction Services of Grand Rapids was hired to sandblast metal hulls inside and out. Since paint on the hulls is lead-based, the firm had to construct a temporary, fully contained and environmentally safe structure on which to remove the paint and properly dispose of it. The structure sits outdoors and in thick plastic sheeting attached to two-by-four wood planks. Miller said workers have to wear plastic bio-hazard suits and respirators over their nose and mouths.

"Not only do they have to bag up all the paint flanks and wear the suits, but when they leave the immediate work area, they have to shower. Imagine having to shower outdoors in weather like this," Miller said. The shower is set up inside an enclosed area and is the entrance and exit way into the boat work area.

The Janice Sue has already undergone sandblasting. Workers at the Northport boat yard are applying the bottom two coats of epoxy to the outside of the hull. Jerry Palmer, who is working with McDavid and Miller on the boat committee, said Thyer and his crew repaired any damage or rust they found. David Muller, a 10-year worker at Northport Bay, was busy last week applying a second coat of marine paint to the hull of the Janice Sue. Another coat of epoxy may follow. ³If we had not had this work done, these boats would¹ve lasted about two maybe three years before they would¹ve been beyond repair, Miller said.

The hull inside and out of the Janice Sue will be repaired and refinished and be ready for fishing by mid-spring of 2009. Miller said the wood cabin of the boat won¹t be restored for another couple of years. "We need to research the kind of wood that was used and make it historically accurate," he said.

Nugent and Valerio are finishing their survey work on the Joy. They have recommended improvements to the existing support structures to make the vessel more sturdy. Once repairs are done, the ship will also undergo sandblasting and be painted and epoxied over the winter. "We want to have it in the water and fishing by March,² McDavid said. The preservation society has a contract with a commercial fisherman based in Escanaba who will operate the fish tugs this spring and summer.

The society is in the process of fundraising to pay for the work with the goal of raising $175,000. 'Our need is ongoing, as are the needs of a lot of non-profit charities", Miller said. Anyone interested in donating funds to the project or to the overall goals of the society may send a check made out to the Fishtown Preservation Society to: FPS, P.O. Box 721, Leland, MI 49654.

From the Leelanau News


Updates - January 3

News Photo Gallery updated

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 03

03 January 2003 - For the second year in a row the tanker GEMINI (steel propeller tanker, 420 foot, 5,853 gross tons, built in 1978, at Orange, Texas) was the first vessel of the year in Manistee, Michigan. She headed to the General Chemical dock to load 8,000 tons of brine for Amherstburg, Ontario. The vessel arrived at Manistee in 2002, on January first, and Captain Riley Messer was presented a hackberry cane, crafted by local resident Ken Jilbert. A similar cane was presented to the vessel Saturday morning. Sold Canadian in 2005, renamed b.) ALGOSAR.

In 1939, the CHIEF WAWATAM ran aground on the shoals of the north shore near St. Ignace, Michigan.

On Jan 3, 1971, BEN W. CALVIN ran aground at the mouth of the Detroit River after becoming caught in a moving ice field.

In 1972, the TADOUSSAC clears Thunder Bay, Ontario, for Hamilton with 24,085 tons of iron ore, closing that port for the season.

Data from: Joe Barr, Brian Bernard , Dave Swayze, Max Hanley, Mike Nicholls, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. Marine Historical Society of Detroit. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.


Coast Guard rescues two from ice floe

1/2 - Green Bay, Wis. - The Coast Guard rescued two people from an ice floe near Dyckesville, Wis., at approximately 12:15 p.m. today after being notified of two pickup trucks and people in distress on the ice.

A Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City HH-65C Dolphin helicopter and a Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay 20-foot airboat were launched at approximately 10:45 a.m. to search for people stranded on the ice after a 400-foot crack opened and a portion of the ice broke away. Door County Eagle III spotted two people on the ice and vectored in the Coast Guard airboat to their location. This is the Coast Guard's first rescue of the new year on the Great Lakes.

Station Sturgeon Bay reported on scene, safely rescued the two and transported them to shore. Brussels Union and Sturgeon Bay Fire Department and other local agencies transported 10 ice fishermen to shore. Emergency Medical Services were not needed for the rescued individuals.

The Coast Guard, Door County's Eagle III, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Door County Sheriff's Brussels Union, Sturgeon Bay Fire Department and other local responders combined efforts to save the people stranded on the ice.

"At this early point in the cold weather season, the ice can be very unpredictable and dangerous. People should be careful if they are willing to go out on the ice and should take the necessary precautions before doing so," said Jane Willits, a command duty officer with the Ninth Coast Guard District in Cleveland.

USCG News Release


Port Reports - January 2

Detroit River - Ken Borg
On New Years Eve the Algosteel was towed up the Rouge River stern first by the G tugs Wyoming and Superior. She went to St. Marys Cement in Detroit. Kaministiqua came down river and tied up at ADM in Ojibway about 4:24 p.m. Canadian Olympic was downbound, passing USCG Belle Isle at 3:25 p.m. and the CCGC Samuel Risley was upbound.

Toronto - Charlie Gibbons
Radium Yellowknife and the two big grain barges departed at 4 a.m. New Years Day for Port Weller, where they will winter.

Buffalo - Brian Wroblewski
CSL Assiniboine was taking on coal at the Gateway Trade Terminal at 1 p.m. on January 1.

Goderich - Jacob Smith and Dale Baechler
On a cold gloomy Thursday, Agawa Canyon was loading at the Sifto salt dock, for a Lake Michigan port. Algoway made her way into the ice filled channel and inner harbour early Friday morning. She made her turn and went to the Sifto Salt dock to load.

Toledo - Jim Hoffman
The Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin departed from the Midwest Terminal Dock Thursday morning and was bound for Sandusky, Ohio to load coal. The American Integrity arrived at CSX #2 Dock for winter layup early Thursday afternoon, she is tied up in front of the American Courage.
The CSX Coal Docks and the Midwest Terminal Stone Docks are closed down for the season. The revised schedule for ore boats due into the Torco Ore Dock has the Herbert C. Jackson due in Monday and the last ore boat of the season will be the Lee A. Tregurtha due in Wednesday.


Updates - January 2

News Photo Gallery updated

Lay Up List updated


Today in Great Lakes History - January 02

While on the North Atlantic under tow for scrapping, the ASHLAND parted her towline but was tracked by U.S. Coast Guard aircraft and was retrieved by her tug on January 2nd, 1988, some 300 miles off course.

The 3-mast wooden schooner M J CUMMINGS was launched at the shipyard of Goble & MacFarlane in Oswego, New York. Her owners were Mrs. Goble & MacFarlane, Daniel Lyons and E. Caulfield. Her dimensions were 142 foot 6 inches X 25 foot 2 inches X 11 foot 6 inches, 325 tons and she cost $28,000.

January 2, 1925 - The ANN ARBOR NO 7 (Hull#214) was launched at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Corp. She was sponsored by Jane Reynolds, daughter of R. H. Reynolds, marine superintendent of the railroad. Renamed b.) VIKING in 1983.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Max Hanley, Jody Aho, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.

This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.

Please e-mail if you would like to contribute a significant event in Great Lakes history.


Saginaw River saw fewer boats in 2008

1/1 - Bay City, Mich. - Another year of commercial shipping on the Saginaw River has come to a close and, like last season, 2008 had a number of historical and noteworthy events.

The biggest story continues to be the decrease in the number of vessels calling on Saginaw River commercial docks. Between the first boat of the season on 3/27/2008 and the last boat on 12/23/2008 there were 214 commercial vessel passages by 38 different boats. Compare that to 259 vessel passages in 2007 by 42 boats and you see a decline of 45 commercial deliveries to local docks. Looking back further, you can see the trend has been continual with a decrease of 106 passages from 2006 and 133 passages from 2005 as compared to the 2008 season. It would be hard to argue that the state of the economy did not play a major role in this decline.

Another big story was the start of much needed dredging of the upper river. After years of court battles over a new confined disposal facility for the dredged materials, the new site was declared open and Luedtke Engineering of Frankfort, MI was awarded the contract to dredge the shipping channel in an area roughly from the Liberty Bridge in Bay City upriver to the Sixth Street turning basin in Saginaw. Dredging was set to begin in the fall, but was pushed back to December due to Luedtke being tied up with the completion of another dredging project elsewhere.

Equipment for the project began arriving in late November and by the first week in December, work was set to begin. As luck would have it with this project though, a mechanical failure with a key piece of the dredging equipment stopped work before it ever really began. It now looks like 2009 will be the year that the upper Saginaw River finally gets underway.

Finally, an old friend has left the Saginaw River for the last time and was towed away for scrap. The cement carrier, E.M. Ford, was towed from the LaFarge Cement dock on November 11th by the Purvis Marine Limited tug Avenger IV, headed for the Purvis dock at the Soo. The Ford was a familiar sight on the Saginaw River for years, first delivering cargos to the cement terminal in Carrollton and then later as a cement storage/transfer vessel in the same location. A number of boat watchers from around the Great Lakes came to see her last trip down the Saginaw River and to bid farewell to a grand old lady of the lakes.

Looking at some other numbers from 2008, 20 commercial docks along the river saw cargo deliveries this season. Leading the way with 39 was the Wirt Stone Dock in Bay City, down two deliveries from 2007. The Bay Aggregates dock in Bay City was next with 38 deliveries, up eight from last year. The top five were rounded out by the Wirt Stone Dock in Saginaw with 29, the Sargent Dock in Zilwaukee with 21 and the Sargent Dock in Essexville with 19. On a related note, the Consumers Energy Dock, who led the way in 2007 with 46 deliveries, fell to only 15 in 2008. This decrease of 31 cargos can be attributed to the coal train unloading equipment at the power plant being put back into full service after problems with the equipment severely limited delivery by rail in 2007.

Looking at the boats, leading the way for the third year in a row was the tug Olive L. Moore and her self unloading barge, Lewis J. Kuber. The pair logged 45 passages in 2008, up from 33 last year. Coming in next with 21 deliveries was the newly renamed Calumet, who last year sailed as the David Z. and before that, a regular visitor as the David Z. Norton for the Oglebay-Norton company. The remainder of the top five was the Manistee with 20, last year’s number two boat, CSL Tadoussac, with 16, and the Algoway with 14.
Turning to the fleets, the boats from Lower Lakes Towing and its subsidiary, Grand River Navigation had more passages than any other fleet for the third straight year. LLT/GRN logged 62 visits, seven fewer than last year. K&K Integrated Shipping was next with 45 passages, up 12 from 2007. Following with 30 visits was the American Steamship Company. This was down 21 visits from their total in 2007. Algoma Central Marine was next with 26 passages and Canada Steamship Lines with 17.

There were a number of boats who were regular visitors in past years that did not see the Saginaw River in 2008. Most notable in that list was the Walter J. McCarty, Jr., Alpena, Joyce L. Van Enkevort / Great Lakes Trader, Canadian Transfer, and the tug John Spence. Also absent in 2008 from her namesake river was the newly repowered Saginaw. There were a few vessels that made a surprise appearance in 2007, but did not return in 2008. Most notably, the Lee A Tregurtha, Michipicoten, and the tug Victory. Making return visits in 2008 after not seeing the Saginaw River for a season or more were the Frontenac, G.L. Ostrander / Integrity, tugs James A. Hannah and Mary E. Hannah, and the Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker Samuel Risley. Possibly making her first ever visits to the Saginaw River was the tug Ivory Coast.

Here are a few other notes. The Great Lakes Maritime Academy Training Vessel, State of Michigan, made a public relations visit to Wenonah Park in Downtown Bay City in 2008. Also making PR visits were the tall ships Pride of Baltimore II and the Highlander Sea, and The Navel Cadet Training Vessel, Grey Fox, docked in Bay City over the 4th of July weekend to assist in fundraising to bring the museum vessel U.S.S. Edson to Bay City.

A few other vessels who called on the Saginaw River in 2008 were the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock, who made three visits to work aids to navigation, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay, who broke out the Saginaw River Entrance Channel to open the season in the spring.

The tug Mohawk and hydraulic dredge Arthur J. from MCM Marine were back in 2008, working channel maintenance out near the Confined Disposal Island on the Saginaw Bay and from Luedtke Engineering, the tugs Kurt Luedtke and Gretchen B, Derrick Boat 16, and hydraulic dredge Lucille all arrived in December. The Malcolm Marine tug, Manitou, also made four visits hauling equipment for Luedtke.

Finally, the Saginaw River based tug, Gregory J. Busch, saw work assisting vessels numerous times in 2008. From assisting with the move of the E. M. Ford, to spending days assisting vessels in and out of the ice in the river at the end of the season, the Busch was a welcome sight for many in 2008.

(The information contained in the report is as accurate and error free as possible, but is possible there may have been a vessel or dock delivery missed as tracking vessels for the entire season is not an exact science.)

Reported by Todd Shorkey


Port Reports - January 1, 2009

Owen Sound - Peter Bowers, Wayne Brown and Ed Saliwonchyk
Algomarine arrived in Owen Sound about 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. She called in from Squaw Point at about 5:30 stating she would be turning and backing in to the harbor. She is secured for the winter opposite the CPR station and south of the Miller Cement silos.

Muskegon - The Muskegon Chronicle
Muskegon - What could be the last vessel of the 2008-09 shipping season — the 647-foot Agawa Canyon — made its way in and out of Muskegon on Tuesday. The Agawa Canyon, built in 1970, delivered salt to the Verplank dock. The ship brings salt cargoes from Ontario to various Great Lakes ports, including Muskegon.

Hamilton - Eric Holmes
The Canadian Provider saga continues. Instead of tying up in Hamilton, she left early in the morning for Port Weller but after sitting there most of the day gave up and returned to Hamilton. She arrived at 5 p.m. and went to Pier 25S for the winter. The tug Radium Yellowknife and barge arrived at 8 p.m. The tug Salvor and barge would be coming later once she clears the canal.

Toronto - Charlie Gibbons
Canadian Navigator arrived for lay-up at Pier 51 on Tuesday. Radium Yellowknife with the barges BIG 549 and BIG 503 arrived in port Wednesday afternoon and tied up at Pier 27.


Welland Canal group seeks more ambassadors

1/1 - St. Catharines, Ont. - Most people use an alarm clock. But Barrett Smith knows it's time to get ready for work when his house starts shaking. The alert comes every time a ship enters nearby Lock 7 of the Welland Canal.

As a member of the Friends of Lock 7, Smith has made it his job to stand at the lock's edge with the gawking tourists, taking in the spectacle and answering any questions landlubbers may have about the canal or what's sailing through. "These are interesting things to people," Smith said. "If you're coming up from Arizona and you see this ship coming through the middle of nowhere, there's some funny questions asked." But he and the rest of the group, a handful of ship enthusiasts who decided 25 years ago to be Thorold's unofficial canal ambassadors, usually have an answer.

They often hold their posts bearing gifts for visitors - copies of The 25 Most Frequently Asked Questions about the Welland Canal, written by founding member Margery Ritchie, Tommy Trent's The ABCs of the Seaway and sometimes a Canada flag pin. "We have a passion for it," said Smith, who worked on a boat when he was 13. "It gets in your blood."

But as the group gets older and its numbers dwindle, no one has clamored to fill the voids at the Friends' usual gathering points -- the orange door at the lock gatehouse or the tourism centre overlooking it. Once 12 strong, the group is down to six members. "There's quite a few empty plaques," Thorold tourism director Terry Dow said Tuesday, while looking at a placard hanging in the Lock 7 Tourism Centre paying homage to the group. "So they're looking for volunteers."

The dwindling membership isn't for lack of trying. But so far, the offers to join have gone unanswered. Smith credits Ritchie with bringing the group of boat-loving retirees together more than two decades ago. Then a columnist for the Thorold News, Ritchie penned the regular feature called Seen and Heard at Lock 7 about the visitors and the questions they asked.

She and her husband, Robert, lived in a house overlooking the canal, taking comfort and feeling proud with each ship that climbed up or down the mountain. "There are many people who feel the same way," Ritchie said. "I still find (ships) fascinating. I find it quite thrilling in the quiet of night when I can still hear the ships coming through."

Joyce Conners and her husband, Bill, were also founding members, spending 10 to 12 hours a day ready for tourist questions and "religiously" logging every ship that passed through. After Bill died a few years ago, the trip from her Port Weller home to Lock 7 became harder to make. But Conners still does it every day to spend at least an hour or two. A bench bearing Bill's name has also been installed at the viewing complex in memory of "the answer man."

The Friends and the information they share aren't quickly forgotten by their audience. They get letters from tourists they meet, long after the briefing on boats is over. Many come back year after year, asking for their favorite friend to fill them in on more canal lore. "We form some very long-lasting friendships with people we never would have met if it weren't for the canal," Conners said.

If no tourists are around, the Friends chat with each other instead, or keep an eye on the tourist centre for Dow. "There's a bit of banter all the time, back and forth, with all our idiosyncrasies," Smith said. Dow is hopeful that one day, there will be more to join in the conversation. "I really need these people. They add a lot to my business and what I do in Thorold," she said.

From the St. Catharines Standard


Today in Great Lakes History - January 01

On this day in 1958, 76-year-old Rangvald Gunderson retired as wheelsman from the ELTON HOYT 2ND. Mr. Gunderson sailed on the lakes for 60 years.

On January 1, 1973, the PAUL H. CARNAHAN became the last vessel of the 1972, shipping season to load at the Burlington Northern (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe) ore docks in Superior, Wisconsin. Interestingly, the CARNAHAN also opened the Superior docks for the season in the spring of 1972.

On 1 January 1930, HELEN TAYLOR (wooden propeller steam barge, 56 foot, 43 gross tons, built in 1894, at Grand Haven, Michigan) foundered eight miles off Michigan City, Indiana. She was nicknamed "Pumpkin Seed" due to her odd shape.

January 1, 1900 - The Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad merged with the Chicago & West Michigan and the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Western Railroads to form the Pere Marquette Railway Co.

On 1 January 1937, MAROLD II (steel propeller, 129 foot, 165 gross tons, built in 1911, at Camden, New Jersey, as a yacht) was siphoning gasoline off the stranded tanker J OSWALD BOYD (244 foot, 1,806 gross tons , built in 1913, in Scotland) which was loaded with 900,000 gallons of gasoline and was stranded on Simmons Reef on the north side of Beaver Island. A tremendous explosion occurred which totally destroyed MAROLD II and all five of her crew. Only pieces of MAROLD II were found. Her captain's body washed ashore in Green Bay the next year. At time of loss, she was the local Beaver Island boat. The remains of the BOYD were removed to Sault Ste. Marie in June 1937.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Russ Plumb, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series. Marine Historical Society of Detroit. This is a small sample, the books includes many other vessels with a much more detailed history.

News Archive - August 1996 to present

Return to Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping

Comments, news, and suggestions to:

Copyright All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Due to frequent updates, this page will automatically reload every half hour