On October 18, 1924 Great Lakes Engineering Works launched its first
vessel at the new River Rouge, MI shipyard. Hull #248 would be
christened the Joseph H. Frantz (U.S. 224409) as the flag ship for the
Columbia Steamship Company of Cleveland OH. The new ship was the first of
a quartet of vessels to slid down the ways at the new facility.
after the Frantz, The Edward J Berwind was launched. She would operate
for the Hanna Mining Company. In 1925 the John A. Topping was also
constructed for the Columbia Steamship Company. The final ship of the 4
came in 1925 in the shape of Cleveland Cliff's new flag ship, the
G. Mather (2).
The Frantz and Mather shared the same dimensions of 618' long, 62' wide at
the beam, and a molded depth of 32'. The two ships also shared a similar
appearance, the only major differences being the Frantz triple deck pilot
house and enclosed stern cabins.
Although smaller in length to the 625' Canadian "Queen of the Lakes" W.
Grant Morden and her fleet mate the 621' Topping she was still one of the
largest ships for the time, and boasted a larger capacity then the Morden
due to her wider beam and deeper depth.
The Frantz would carry close to 14,000 tons of ore on each trip down from
the lake head, and close to that number if not a little more in coal on the
way up. She was propelled in the early years of her life by a 2,500 ihp
Triple expansion engine. In 1944 management of the Columbia vessels was
transferred to the Oglebay Norton Co. In 1955 her original power plant was
removed in favor of a 5,323 hp Skinner Uniflow steam engine.
During period of 10 years, from 1955 to 1965 ore demand increased at a
dramatic rate. Rather then invest money in aging fleets the trend was to
build larger faster vessels. Rather then increasing length by inches
shipbuilders stretched there vessels by the yard. The Frantz was soon out
paced by the new AAA class with there 70' beams, and then the even larger
730'/75' Standard Seaway vessels. Through out the cold war period ships the
Frantz size were reduced for late season surplus or were one by one retired
to the salvage yard.
However the Frantz escaped this bleak future. In 1965 Oglebay Norton
company contracted the Christy Corporation of Sturgeon Bay, WI. to perform a
much needed career saving "face lift". The Frantz's Skinner engine was
replaced with a less powerful but more efficient 4,000 bhp General Motors,
Enterprise diesel. Despite the reduce of power she can still cruise at the
respectable speed of 14mph when loaded.
She was also rebuilt as a
Self-Unloader, receiving a 250-foot boom mounted on a trunk deck just aft of the
forward cabins (much like the conversion of the
Nicolet). The vessel is
now able to load 13,500 gross tons of stone and ore, or 15,100 net tons of
coal, through her 19 hatches that empty into 6 holds, and in turn unload it
all at a rate of 4000 net tons per hour Also her original triple deck pilot
house was reduced to 2 levels giving her the appearance she carries today.
After all the reworking and refitting the ship proudly etched herself a spot
in the stone and coal trades. With her shorter length and shallow draft the
Frantz thrives on the smaller river ports of Manistee, Saginaw, and Bay
City, and can also be spotted routinely in Muskegon, Burns Harbor, Alpena,
and Marine City.
The Frantz for the most part has been a safe vessel over the years. Due to
her work in the tight confines of rivers and shallow harbors she is subject
to grounding and she touched the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Bay City
June 16, 1997 when the east span failed to raise. Damage was strictly cosmetic.
The Frantz spent the 2002 season tied up at the Hocking Valley dock in Toledo, Ohio. Several other vessels spent extended periods of time at the wall in 2002, including her fleet mate the Buckeye. While most of the laid up ships saw late season service the Frantz did not, spawning several rumors of a possible sale, or retirement.
Retirement was the fate of another vessel as the last operating American flagged straight deck bulk carrier Great Lakes Associate’s Kinsman Independent entered lay up for the last time in Buffalo at the end of the 2002-03 season. With installation of self-unloading hoppers at the elevators
where she unloaded, it was deemed uneconomical to continue operating her.
In early 2003 it surfaced that the Frantz would be chartered to Great Lakes Associates (Kinsman Lines Managed) for the 2003 season. By Mid April the idled vessel became the center of activity as Kinsman crewmembers began paining and preparing the vessel for a short tow to the dry dock at Toledo Ship Repair for inspection. Later she was moved to the old Interlake Iron dock to finish the fit out process.
With Kinsman the Frantz will see service on Lakes Superior for the first time in many years. Her trade route will consist
of grain from Duluth, MN to Buffalo, NY and stone and coal cargoes to other
ports. As a self-unloader this will allow her to operate more efficiently than the traditional straight deck freighters that
were the backbone of the grain trade for more than a century.
On May 9, 2003 the Frantz departed Toledo headed upbound to load at Cedarville,
Mi (Port Dolomite) for Muskegon and Holland. She loaded a cargo of agricultural
lime and block mix.
On December 16, 2004, the Joseph H. Frantz completed her 2004 navigation season
laying up in Buffalo, NY as normal for Kinsman boats of recent years. The
advent of the 2005 navigation season however, saw this laker remain tied up at
her Buffalo lay-up berth.
On April 29, 2005 the Frantz was towed by the tugs Ecosse and the Seahound to
International Marine Salvage in Port Colborne, Ontario for scrapping.
For the previous two seasons the Frantz had been operating under charter from Oglebay Norton Marine Services to Great Lakes Associates (Kinsman), which used her mostly in the grain trade. However the Frantz, built in 1925,
was in need of a five-year hull and machinery inspection and reports indicated she needed more work than could be financially justified on such an old vessel
of this size.
Overall Dimensions (metric)
||32' 00" (9.75m)