The keel was laid for this mid-size Great Lakes self-unloading bulk carrier on January 28, 1970 at Collingwood Shipyards of Collingwood, ON, as their hull # 195. Built at an
approximate net cost of $6.7 million CN including a Canadian government subsidy ($8.6 million less subsidy set at 22%), the vessel was launched August 27, 1970 as Agawa Canyon for
Algoma Central Railway - Marine Division of Sault Ste. Marie, ON. Agawa Canyon was named after the scenic gorge and canyon of the same name located north of Sault Ste. Marie, ON. She
was the third of four similarly-designed vessels built by Collingwood Shipyards for Algoma Central. The first was Roy A. Jodrey, launched in 1965, sinking in the St. Lawrence River in
1974. The second was the Algorail launched in 1967 and the fourth, the Algoway launched in 1972.
Agawa Canyon was initially powered by 4 American built Fairbanks, Morse & Co. 1,666 b.h.p. (1,240kw) 10 cylinder diesel engines and 2 Caterpillar V-12 cylinder 700 b.h.p. (520kw)
diesel engines all connected to a central gear box (known as the "side drive" option) driving a controllable pitch propeller giving her a combined 8,064 b.h.p. (6,000kw) and a rated
service speed of 20.7 m.p.h. She suffered a serious engine room explosion shortly on September 1, 1970 killing one person and injuring seven others. New main engines similar to the
original ones were installed in 1975. Her power then consisted of 4 Canadian built Fairbanks, Morse & Co. model 10-38D8-1/8 opposed piston, 2-stroke cycle, single acting 10-cylinder
diesel engines giving her a combined 6,662 b.h.p. (4,960 kw). The power was fed to a single KaMeWa controllable pitch propeller giving the vessel a new rated service speed of 13.8
m.p.h. She was equipped with a KaMeWa 600 h.p. (447kw) bow thruster.
Agawa Canyon had 17 hatches servicing 4 holds where she could carry up to 24,050 tons (24,435 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 28' 10" (8.79m) and approximately 21,220 tons (21,561 mt)
at the St. Lawrence Seaway draft of 26' 06" (8.08m). The vessel's holds had the cubic capacity to hold 20,200 net tons (18,036 tons / 18,325 mt) of coal. Her self-unloading equipment
consisted of a three belt gravity-fed system with plastic linings and vibrators throughout with two cleated steel chord belt elevators feeding a forward mounted 250' (76.2m) discharge
boom that could be swung 105 degrees to port or starboard discharging at a rate of 3,750 tons (3,810 mt) per hour.
Following the engine room explosion, Agawa Canyon entered service on November 20, 1970. While berthed at her winter lay-up dock at Goderich, ON, loaded with a winter storage cargo
of grain, on March 17, 1973, surging water caused by a severe storm resulted in $175,000 in damages. The surging caused other vessels to break away from their berths. Floating freely
in the small harbor, some of these vessels collided with the secured Agawa Canyon contributing to the damage. That same year, the Agawa Canyon loaded Little Harbour, ON's largest iron
ore cargo, 16,925 tons (17,197 mt). In April of 1976, the vessel inaugurated cement clinker service between Picton, ON, and Bay City, MI. On July 18, 1977, while laden with salt bound
for Kingston, ON, the laker struck the Welland Canal's Bridge 11 bridge abutment at Allanburg, ON, due to steering failure. The allision caused a 30' (9.14m) gash above the port bow
waterline. Permission was given to allow the delivering of her cargo to Toronto, ON, and the return to Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines, ON, for repairs. Later that year, on
December 26, 1977, she received rudder damage while bound for a Lake Ontario port with coal. Her cargo was transferred to the Algoway at Port Huron, MI, and the Agawa Canyon was towed
to Sarnia, ON, for repairs and winter lay-up.
The 1980s were not as eventful for the Agawa Canyon compared to the 1970s. On March 25, 1981, the Agawa Canyon was the celebrated vessel at the Welland Canal's "Top Hat" ceremony
opening the Canal as the first official upbound vessel of the new season. On April 11, 1983, she struck the ore dock at Marquette, MI, damaging both the dock and her forward end. On
July 26, 1988, the self-unloader delivered the first load of alfalfa pellets (12,034 tons) to Toledo, OH.
In 1990, Agawa Canyon became the first ship in 10 years to call at Depot Harbour, ON, now classified as a ghost town located off Georgian Bay on Parry Island near Parry Sound, ON.
Beginning in 1994, the Agawa Canyon began sailing under the management of Seaway Self Unloaders, St. Catharines, ON, a marketing and management partnership between Algoma Central
Corporation and Upper Lakes Group of Toronto, ON (later Seaway Marine Transport). June 3, 1995 saw the failure of the self-unloader's discharge boom while the vessel was loading salt
at Goderich, ON. On April 10, 1998 while downbound approaching the MacArthur Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, MI, and loaded with 24,250 tons (24,640 mt) of potash for Burns Harbor, IN, she
collided with the empty upbound tanker Emerald Star, which was just leaving the Poe Lock.
Agawa Canyon received a $7.2 million CN mid-life refit while at her 1998/99 winter lay-up at Port Weller Dry Docks at St. Catharines, ON. Generally, the refit included the removal
of the lower section of the existing hopper structure complete with gates, idlers, rollers, etc.; the repair of the existing tank top and the installation of new cladding/doubler
plates; the fabrication and installation of new hopper units with new basket style gates and fixed frame idlers installed; removal and reinstallation or renewal of the UHMW plastic
lining in way of all modifications; renewal of the hydraulic mains in the tunnel for the gate cylinders and vibrators; the blasting and painting of the structure in way of the
modifications; installation of new washdown holding tanks and related piping and a five year survey.
On October 29, 2003, Agawa Canyon struck the Conrail Bridge crossing the Rouge River in Detroit, MI, after the vessel had unloaded salt from Windsor, ON. Both the bridge and the
starboard quarter of the laker were damaged but both remained operational. Then on June 17, 2007, the vessel became stuck in the mud of the lower St. Clair River near the U.S. shore
close to Algonac, MI, after reporting steering difficulty. With assistance of "G" tugs Superior and Vermont, the self-unloader was freed late in the day and continued on her downbound
trip to Windsor and Detroit with stone from Bruce Mines, ON. No damage was reported.
Agawa Canyon continued to sail for owner Algoma Central Corporation of St. Catharines, ON, being fully operated and managed by Seaway Marine Transport also of St. Catharines.
Cargoes could include salt, limestone, fertilizer, trap rock, sand, coal, stone, potash or slag. Agawa Canyon, as with her fleet mates Algorail and Algoway, were designed for the short
haul trades with flexibility the goal, delivering cargoes to many of the smaller ports primarily on the upper four Great Lakes. It was not unusual for this vessel to carry close to 100
cargoes in a season.
Agawa Canyon saw continued service through the 2009 navigation season, when on December 22, 2009 the vessel entered winter lay-up in Montreal, QC at Sec. 56. That pier was often
used by ships that have reached the end of their careers and are headed for scrapping.
On September 18, 2010, Agawa Canyon was towed from port headed for scrapping in Aliaga, Turkey with the ocean tug Sirocco (owned by ITC, Heemstede, Netherlands) on the bow that
would pull the Canyon on the tow lasting 30 or more days. Nadro Marine tug Vigilant 1 was the steering tug on the stern for that portion of the tow through the St. Lawrence River.
Agawa Canyon was the first of three veteran Seaway Marine vessels to leave Montreal for the Aliaga scrap yard in the fall of 2010, the others following being the Canadian
Prospector and the Algoisle.
Written by George Wharton.