The tug Defiance (US 646729) and barge Ashtabula (US 626730) were specifically designed to operate together as a self-unloading bulk carrier and have spent their entire career doing so. The pair were originally built for subsidiaries of Beker Industries of Greenwich, Connecticut. Beker Industries was a conglomerate primarily in the business of phosphate mining and distribution from mines near Tampa Bay in Florida. After a long career on the ocean, the pair have returned to the Lakes where they were built.
The barge was launched as hull 728 on April 22, 1982 by Bay Shipbuilding of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It was christened . The namesake is assumed to be Erol Y. Beker, the founder and president of Beker Industries and Beker Phosphate Corporation.
The tug was constructed by the Marinette Marine Corporation of Marinette, Wisconsin and launched as construction number 8271. It was delivered to Sturgeon Bay one day after the barge was launched, on April 23, 1982. The tug was christened April T. Beker. The assumed namesake is April Beker, wife of Erol Y. Beker. The tug is equipped with a second elevated pilot house and is powered
by two EMD 20 cylinder 645-E7B engines which produce a total of 7200 horsepower.
The pair were built under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970. This program allowed U.S. shipping companies to construct new vessels or to modernize their existing fleet by government guaranteed financing and tax deferred benefits. The barge incorporated many of the typical characteristics of a Great Lakes self-unloader. This includes belt conveyors below the hopper-shaped
hold and a bow mounted unloading boom. However being designed for ocean use, there are some visual differences from typical Great Lakes designs. First, the barge has a deep hull, designed to be loaded to a 36 foot draft. Second, the unloading boom was very short, intended to unload into dockside hoppers. And third, the hatch covers are large corrugated covers, considerably larger
and heavier than hatch covers typical to the Great Lakes. The hatch crane is quite tall to allow for clearance to pass over multiple hatch covers stacked in one location.
As built, the pair would not meet the modern day definition of an Articulated Tug Barge (ATB). Instead of a rigid physical connection between the two, the bow of the tug was protected by heavy rubber fendering. When in the deep notch of the barge, wing wires were run from the stern of the tug to the barge to hold the tug in the notch. The tug is also equipped with a towing winch to tow the barge on the wire when necessary. In 2007 the pair was retrofitted with a Bludworth connection system and now meet the common definition of an ATB.
Upon entering service, the pair worked mostly on a route between Tampa Bay and the Lower Mississippi River. Phosphate was carried westbound and coal was backhauled eastbound for power plants run by Tampa Electric (TECO). Beker Industries filed for bankruptcy in 1985 and the pair was eventually taken over by the TECO subsidiary Gulfcoast Transit Company. In November 1987 the barge was renamed Mary Turner and the tug renamed Beverly Anderson. Gulfcoast Transit Company became TECO Ocean Shipping in 2002. In 2007 TECO sold off its shipping and marine terminal business to United Marine Group (UMG). The pair were now operated by the UMG subsidiary U.S. United Ocean Services. Throughout these corporate changes the pair retained their Mary Turner/Beverly Anderson names. It is believed that they mostly traded on the same Tampa/Mississippi River route.
While in service on the ocean, the pair experienced numerous incidents typical of a working commercial vessel. On January 21, 1983 the barge ran aground after breaking free from the tug in the Gulf of Mexico. The event necessitated a drydocking for inspection and repairs. Other less serious groundings occurred in December 1992, Febuary 1998, May 2002 and April 2004. Probably the most serious
incident the pair experienced was a major engine room fire on the tug on Tampa Bay on April 16, 1992. One of the tug's engineers was severely burned and the fire was difficult to control due to rough weather.
On December 6, 2011 Rand Logistics, Inc. announced that they had purchased the Mary Turner and Beverly Anderson as part of a $25 million deal which also included the bulk carrier Tina Litrico (now renamed Tecumseh). The pair spent the 2011-2012 winter at a Tampa area shipyard and arrived on the Lakes in the spring of 2012. In early April 2012 the pair stopped at Wharf 17 in Port Colborne.
There the barge's original unloading boom (which was already detached and appeared to be less than 80 feet long) was removed and the reconditioned 250 foot boom from the scrapped Joseph H. Frantz was placed on blocking on the deck. The pair then proceeded to Fincantieri's Bay Shibuilding in Sturgeon Bay for a six month long retrofit and drydocking.
The pair left Bay Shipbuilding on October 23, 2012 wearing the fleet colors of Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation. They proceeded to Brevort, Michigan where they loaded a cargo of sand. They then sailed to Sarnia, Ontario where the tug was christened the Defiance and the barge the Ashtabula. (the names were legally changed on July 24, 2012). The first cargo of sand was delivered to Buffalo, NY on November 3, 2012.