The Edward L. Ryerson, is one of
only two remaining straight-deck bulk carriers still part of the American fleet
on the Great Lakes; the other being the John Sherwin (2). Built as hull # 425 by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Inc. of
Manitowoc, WI; the keel for this bulk carrier was laid April 20, 1959.
At a snow covered shipyard on January 21, 1960; sponsored by Mrs. Edward L.
Ryerson, the new vessel was launched
and christened Edward L. Ryerson for owners, the Inland Steel Co. of
Chicago, IL. The new steamer was the first of five American-flagged ships
to be added to the "730-class" of lake boats in the early 1960's; the other four
all being former Maritime Commission T2-type tankers converted for Great Lakes
service (these being the Leon Falk Jr., Paul H. Carnahan, Pioneer Challenger,
and the Walter A. Sterling). The Edward L. Ryerson became the third of
thirteen 730' (222.5m) carriers to eventually share in the "Queen of the Lakes" title for
being the longest ships on the Great Lakes. She was also the second
American-flagged vessel to share this honor; the first being the Arthur B. Homer
launched November 7, 1959. The "Queen of the Lakes" title was
until December 7, 1962 when the title was passed to the slightly larger Frankcliffe Hall.
The lake boat's namesake, Mr. Edward Larned Ryerson, was born
in Chicago on December 3rd, 1886. He had been president of the steel
service center Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc. until 1935 when it was merged
with Inland Steel. Mr. Ryerson was chairman of the board from 1940 until
his retirement in 1953 of both Inland Steel and his original company. Mr.
Ryerson died in Chicago on August 2nd, 1971.
By all accounts, the Edward L. Ryerson would have to
classified as the most aesthetically pleasing of all lake boats. From her
gracefully flared bow and top of her pilot house to her large but streamlined
stack to her rounded and tapered stern and her striking paint job, no expense or
effort was spared during her construction to achieve this goal. Over $8
million was reported to have been spent on the accommodations alone. The
Ryerson was considered a slightly larger version (basic design and construction)
of her 1949-built fleet mate Wilfred Sykes. Regardless of the Ryerson's
appearance however, the bulk carrier was built with one cargo in mind; that
being iron ore. Her basically square boxed holds do not favor the carrying
of such other bulk cargoes as coal, slag, or limestone due to the difficulty in
unloading these cargoes. Any thoughts of conversion to a self-unloader
would be even more difficult and expensive as her holds would have to
be reconfigured with sloped sides to allow for the free movement of the cargo to
the self-unloading conveyor(s).
A sequence of "lasts" are a part of this beautiful
straight-decker's history. The Ryerson was the last American-flagged new
ship built on the Great Lakes until the launch of the Stewart J. Cort in 1972.
She was the last U.S. laker to be built as a steamer, the last to be built
without a self-unloader, the last lake boat to be constructed at the Manitowoc,
WI shipyards, and the last and only to be built with such aesthetically pleasing
The Edward L. Ryerson is powered by a General Electric 9,900
maximum s.h.p. (7,385.4 kW) cross-compound steam turbine engine (consisting of a high and low
pressure turbine) built by General Electric Co., Schenectady, NY with two heavy fuel-oil fired Combustion Engineering water
tube boilers. The Ryerson is capable of speeds up to 19 m.p.h. earning her
the nickname "Fast Eddie" as one of the fastest ships on the Great Lakes.
Eighteen hatches service 4 holds where the bulk carrier is capable of carrying
up to 27,500 tons (27,942 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 28'04 1/2" (8.65m).
Dimensionally, the Ryerson could transit the Welland Canal and St. Lawrence
Seaway where she could carry approximately 24,869 tons (25,269 mt) at the
new Seaway draft of 26'06" (8.08m) implemented in 2004. Other cubic
hold capacities include 18,100 net tons of coal (the standard measurement of
coal, equivalent to 16,100 tons / 16,161 mt); 15,550 tons (15,800 mt) of wheat;
14,979 tons (15,220 mt) of corn or rye; 13,139 tons (13,350 mt) of barley or
12,066 tons (12,260 mt) of oats. The vessel
displaces 9,050 tons (9,195 mt) lightweight. A 1,200 h.p. (895 kW) diesel bow thruster was added
After completing her sea trials on August 3rd, 1960, the
Ryerson sailed in ballast to Escanaba, MI where 23,213 tons (23,586 mt) of
iron ore were loaded on board on August 4th for her maiden voyage to Indiana
Harbor, IN. On August 28, 1962; the Ryerson set a new iron ore
cargo record when 25,018 tons (25,420 mt) were loaded on board at Superior,
WI bound for Indiana Harbor, IN. This record was broken in 1965.
The Edward L. Ryerson has had no recordable incidents of any
serious nature throughout her tenure on the Great Lakes. The Ryerson did,
however, have difficulty before entering service when it was determined after
her launch that the new bulk carrier was, in fact landlocked in the Manitowoc
River. Fifty feet (15.24m) of Manitowoc's east dock had to excavated to
allow the Ryerson to make the turn and pass through the railway bridge. A downturn in
industry forced the lay-up of the Ryerson at Indiana Harbor through the 1986 and
1987 seasons. At that time, when the bulker returned to service in
1988, she was the only remaining American-flagged straight-decker employed
exclusively in the iron ore trade. The Ryerson laid up again on January
24, 1994 in Sturgeon Bay, WI. She remained inactive through the 1994,
1995, and 1996 seasons as Inland Steel had chartered the surplus self-unloader
Adam E. Cornelius from American Steamship Co. to carry the Ryerson's cargoes.
During this time, the Edward L. Ryerson received a five-year survey (1996) and,
with increased tonnage, returned to service on April 5, 1997.
On December 12, 1998; the Ryerson again was placed into
long-term lay-up at Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI. Also in 1998, her
official name was changed to Str. Edward L. Ryerson. Following the purchase of
Inland Steel by the Netherlands based Ispat International N.V. in 1998; the three
vessels of the Inland Steel fleet were sold to a newly established U.S. firm
Indiana Harbor Steamship Co. to comply with the Jones Act. A second new company,
Central Marine Logistics of Highland, IN was created to manage the fleet. The
other two fleet mates sold to the new company were the Joseph L. Block and the
Wilfred Sykes. Following the sale, the “Inland Steel” name was removed from the
sides of the hulls. Since then, the Ryerson was moved to Sturgeon Bay's east
dock on December 7, 2000 and then back to Bay Shipbuilding on August 17,
2004. Her only other "activity" has been to open for public tours (see
The early summer of 2006 brought a change in the fortunes of
the Edward L. Ryerson. With an abundance of cargoes came the need for more
reliable hulls to carry them. Having been maintained in an excellent state
of readiness, on June 3, 2006, the classic laker was brought out of lay-up and
drydocked at Bay Shipbuilding for an assessment followed by a 5-year survey and fit out.
Sturgeon Bay via Sherwood Point on July 22, 2006 under the command of Capt. Eric
Treece. Flying her christening pennant, she was bound for Escanaba, MI
where 25,632 tons (26,043.75 mt) of "Royal" iron ore pellets were loaded on
board for Indiana Harbor, IN. Trade routes including Escanaba, MI and
Superior, WI to Indiana Harbor, IN and Superior, WI to Lorain, OH have kept the
Edward L. Ryerson engaged since her return to service. Carrying the last
load of her season, a load of iron ore pellets from Superior to Lorain, the
Edward L. Ryerson had the distinction of being the last vessel to transit the
Soo Locks for the 2006 navigation season. The steamer passed
downbound through the Poe Lock at about 1:20AM on January 16, 2007. Her season ended
when the classic laker returned to Sturgeon Bay on January 20, 2007 for winter
lay-up, again flying her christening flag.
April 6, 2007 marked the beginning of a full season of
sailing for the Edward L. Ryerson. Trade routes from 2006 were enhanced
with new destinations and some firsts. On May 24, 2007, she passed
downbound through the Welland Canal bound for Quebec City, QC making her first
ever transit of the Canal and a couple of days later transiting the St. Lawrence
Seaway for the first time. The trip was the first of several made during
2007 to Quebec City. The Edward L. Ryerson achieved an obscure first for
any US flag Great Lakes vessel. On one of her return trips from Quebec
City, she picked up a return load at Valleyfield, QC bound for a lower Lake
Michigan port. During the downbound trip from Superior, WI and the upbound
trip from Valleyfield, QC, the vessel transited every major body of water in the
Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway system, from Lake Superior through to the St.
Lawrence River and back via Lake Michigan to Lake Superior. Her season
ended January 7, 2008 when she laid up at Superior's Fraser Shipyard.
During the winter, the Edward L. Ryerson received a new coat
of paint and, to match the new name of the company that charters the vessel, had
the new stack markings of Arcelor Mittal applied. With Arcelor Mittal now
the owners of Dofasco in Hamilton, ON, the Ryerson began the 2008 season on the
new regular iron ore trade route from Superior, WI to Hamilton, ON. With
the Arcelor Mittal (Dofasco) docks in Hamilton having regularly received iron
ore shipments from Gulf of St. Lawrence ports in the holds of Canadian straight
deck bulk carriers for many years, the docks there are well equipped to handle
and experienced at unloading ore cargos from vessels not equipped with
self-unloading equipment. The new trade route is a "perfect fit" for the
Edward L. Ryerson.