The Lakes' first 1000-footer had its start in the yards of the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation of Pascagoula, Mississippi, in 1970. The unusual-looking vessel was known as "Hull 1173" but acquired the nickname "Stubby" due to its appearance. Hull 1173 consisted of the Cort's bow and stern sections, 182 feet long and 75 feet wide (the
reduced width was necessary to pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Welland Canal locks). The vessel made its way up to the Lakes in 1971 where it was cut apart (following the "Cut Here" instructions painted on the hull) and the two ends were fastened to the 818-foot long midbody at Erie Marine in Erie, Pennsylvania.
The completed vessel was named Stewart J. Cort after the late vice president of Bethlehem Steel, and it sailed on its maiden voyage on May 1, 1972.
The Cort is the
only thousand footer with her pilot house forward.
The Cort surpassed the Edmund Fitzgerald and the several dozen maximum Seaway-size bulk freighters which had shared the honors as largest on the Lakes from September 22, 1958, when the Edmund Fitzgerald entered service. The Cort's first trip was a load of 49,343 gross tons of taconite pellets, surpassing fleetmate Arthur B. Homer's 1970 record by over 20,000 tons.
The Cort is a self-unloader, but it does not use a traditional deck-mounted unloading boom. Instead, it uses a short shuttle boom at the after end of the vessel, behind the engine room. When the Cort arrives at the unloading dock, the short boom extends out over the side of the vessel. The system enables easier loading, and the ability to unload at higher speeds than most self-unloaders, but the main drawback is that the Cort can only visit certain unloading ports which can accommodate this arrangement.
The Cort has developed a steady run between the BNSF (formerly Burlington Northern) ore docks in Superior and the Bethlehem Steel mill in Burns Harbor, Indiana. The vessel also has the distinction of having used the Duluth piers among the least of any Great Lakes vessel, having done so fewer than a dozen times during its years on the Great Lakes.
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