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| St. Clair River.
Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature - H. Lee White
By George Wharton
Built by the Bay Shipbuilding Corp., Sturgeon Bay, WI for the American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY, the H. Lee White(2) was launched December 3, 1973 and sailed on her maiden voyage June 1, 1974. This self-unloading bulk freighter is powered by twin V-20 3600 horsepower GM diesel engines. She has both bow and stern thrusters and a self-unloading system that can unload ore pellets up to6000 tons per hour. Her 6 cargo compartments are fed by 23 hatches allowing her to carry up to 35,200 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 30 feet 7 1/2 inches. She is one of only a few vessels in the Great Lakes American fleet whose size permits her to transit the Welland Canal (the new maximum Canal length being 740 feet). This advantage has been to her benefit this season.
The H. Lee White(2) was the third of ten ships constructed under the provisions of Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970 for the American Steamship Co. This Act allowed for guaranteed
government financing and deferred tax benefits for U.S. shipping companies to build new vessels
or modernize their fleets.
This vessel has had several accidents of note. She ran aground at Port Dolomite, MI in June 1974, collided with the Greek salty Georgios
in December 1974 near St. Clair, MI, struck the Algoma Steel plant dock at Sault
Ste. Marie, ON in July 1976, and struck a section of the toll bridge at Grosse
Ile, MI in September of 1992.
The bridge accident knocked down a 150 foot span
immediately east of the main river channel. The White was not damaged but a new
section of the bridge had to be installed at a cost of $1.7 million. The bridge
was back in service in late January, 1993.
In 2000 Federal Court in Detroit held that the Grosse Ile Bridge Company was the sole cause of the accident. Vindicated in this ruling was Captain John K. Gapczynski of the H. Lee White.
According to his family, the on going legal action caused Capt. Gapczynski a
great deal of distress and he passed away in 1998 before the case was settled.
The ruling was appealed in 2002.
The H. Lee White (2) continues to be a favorite of
boatwatchers and should provide her owners with many
seasons of safe and productive sailings.