Leaving Menominee, MI on maiden voyage, Apr. 13, 2008..

Scott Best

James L. Kuber
(Reserve 1953 - 2008)

by George Wharton

The classic Great Lakes bulk carrier Reserve was built in 1953 at Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge, MI as their hull # 299 after being launched November 15, 1952 for the Columbia Transportation Co. division of Oglebay Norton Co., Cleveland, OH. The Reserve was one of eight similarly designed vessels built in the early 1950's for several carriers, all of which have been loosely classified as being of the "AAA class". The "AAA" designation originated from an internal classification given the three vessels of this design built for the Pittsburgh Steamship fleet which has, over time, been generally applied to all of the group of 8 built at that time.  The other "AAA" class bulkers in order of their launch are the Philip R. Clarke (November 26, 1951, Pittsburgh Steamship Co.), Edward B. Greene (January 10, 1952, Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co.), Arthur M. Anderson (February 16, 1952, Pittsburgh Steamship Co.), Cason J. Calloway (March 22, 1952, Pittsburgh Steamship Co.), J.L. Mauthe (June 21, 1952, Interlake Steamship Co.), Armco (January 24, 1953, Columbia Transportation Co.) and the William Clay Ford (May 5, 1953, Ford Motor Co.).  These straight deck bulkers were contracted by their respective owners and built as a result of the post World War II domestic demand for iron ore and the Korean conflict.

The steamer Reserve was named after the Reserve Mining Co. with its iron ore pellet plant located at Silver Bay, MN, a company jointly owned by Armco and Republic Steel Corporations formed in 1950 and a significant customer of the Columbia Transportation fleet.  Her naming followed a pattern at the time of Columbia naming a number of their vessels for steel mills or companies that were large customers of the fleet.  Other examples of this pattern included the Armco, Ashland and Middletown. 

As originally built, the Reserves overall dimensions were 647' 00" (197.21m) loa x 70' 00" (21.34m) beam x 36' 00" (10.97m) depth with a carrying capacity of 21,000 tons (21,337 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 26' 02" (7.98m).  At the early Seaway draft of 26' 00" (7.92m), the vessel could carry 20,825 tons (21,160 mt).  The cargo was contained in 4 holds serviced by 19 hatches.  The laker was powered by a cross-compound steam turbine engine built by Westinghouse Electric Corp., Philadelphia, PA rated at 7,700 s.h.p. (5,744 KW) with 2 heavy fuel oil-fired Foster-Wheeler water tube boilers.  The power was fed through double reduction gears to a single fixed pitch propeller giving the vessel a rated service speed of 19 m.p.h.  A 1,000 h.p. (744 KW) bow thruster was added during the winter of 1969 / 70 at Superior. WI.

The Reserve sailed on her maiden voyage from the shipyard April 22, 1953 upbound in ballast to Superior, WI for a 18,571 ton (18,869 mt) load of iron ore.  As cargo and vessel sizes increased, the decision was made to lengthen the Reserve.  Consequently, the bulk carrier arrived at Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WI for a $5 million lengthening of 120' (36.58m) during her winter lay-up of 1974 / 75.  When the Reserve entered service in 1975, the straight decker's new dimensions were: 767' 00" (233.78m) loa x 70' 00" (21.34m) beam x 36' 00" (10.97m) depth with a dwt cargo capacity of 26,900 tons (27,332 mt) now carried in 5 holds serviced by 24 hatches.  The vessel's new length made her too long to transit the Welland Canal which had a maximum length restriction of 730' (222.50m).

Keeping the Reserve current with changing times on the Great Lakes, Oglebay Norton decided to convert their straight deck bulk carrier to a self-unloader.  The Reserve arrived at Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI on May 18, 1982 for the conversion.  The self-unloading system consists of a single belt feeding a stern mounted 260' (79.25m) discharge boom that could unload at rates of up to 5,357 tons (5,443 mt) per hour.  The conversions reduced her cargo capacity to 25,500 tons (25,910 mt).  Due to reduced tonnages of the times, the Reserve did not return to service until late September, 1983.

Of note, on April 17, 1990 during a snowstorm, the Reserve ran aground in the St. Marys River while downbound with ore from Duluth, MN for Toledo, OH.  Her cargo had to be lightered to the William R. Roesch before she could be freed from her strand.  Repairs from this incident were completed at Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WI.  Other incidents of note include running aground in the St. Clair River near Port Huron, MI on April 12, 1992 after a loss of steerage.  The self-unloader was freed late the next day after lightering some cargo.  Damage was slight.  On July 21, 1994, the Reserve lost power while downbound the St. Clair River by the mouth of the Black River at Port Huron grounding 20' (6.10m) from a sea wall after swinging through 180 degrees.  After restoring power, she was able to maneuver out with no damage to the vessel or the sea wall.  On January 10, 1994, the Reserve grounded while entering the harbor at Ashtabula, OH resulting in the # 1 ballast tank being pushed in allowing for some water ingress.  After refloating, the vessel was inspected and allowed to proceed to Toledo, OH the same day for winter lay-up and repairs.  Then, on August 9, 1994, she was in contact with Canada Steamship Lines' bulker Tarantau while exiting the Soo Locks upbound.  An inspection after revealed only minor damage and she continued on later that day.  After experiencing a boiler fire in northern Lake Michigan on July 18, 2004, the Reserve visited Bay Shipbuilding at Sturgeon Bay, WI for repairs before proceeding to Duluth, MN to load.

Having remained with essentially the same fleet since her launch, in early March of 2006, Oglebay Norton Marine Services Co. announced the sale of the Reserve to Reserve Holdings LLC, an affiliate of K&K Warehousing Inc. of Menominee, MI for $4 million.  This transaction followed the sale of the Reserve's fleetmate Buckeye in the fall of 2005 to Buckeye Holdings LLC, also an affiliate of K&K Warehousing.  The Reserve began sailing for her new owners on April 24, 2006 when the vessel departed her winter lay-up berth in Duluth, MN.  The self-unloader was now being operated and managed by Central Marine Logistics of Griffith, IN.

Shortly after the 2007 season started, on April 2, 2007, the Reserve fell victim to an overheated bearing while passing the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.  Under the escort of the Zenith tug Susan Hoey, the vessel slowly proceeded to Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WI for turbine repairs, returning to service on May 20.  Her owners however had made the decision to convert the Reserve to an articulated, self unloading similar to the Buckeye conversion now sailing as the Lewis J. Kuber.  After sailing for another 2 months, the Reserve delivered her final load as a powered self-unloader on July 31, 2007 consisting of limestone from Port Inland, MI to the Western Lime Dock at Green Bay, WI.  Shortly after noon on August 1, 2007, the Reserve arrived at her owner's (KK Integrated Logistics) dock at Menominee, MI for lay-up and conversion to a self unloading articulated barge.

The conversion process began quickly.  Most of the work was completed at Menominee but on December 17, 2007,  the barge was moved to Bay Shipbuilding at Sturgeon Bay, WI for dry-docking, returning to Menominee January 4, 2008.  On March 29, 2008, the "new" barge was christened James L. Kuber sponsored by Mr. Kuber's two daughters Marisa Timm and Laura Letter at a ceremony held at KK Integrated Logistics' Menominee facility.  Mr. Kuber is the older brother of KK Integrated Logistics and KK Integrated Shipping's owner Tom Kuber.  The James L. Kuber was then mated with the articulated tug Victory which had been acquired and modified specifically for pushing the barge.  The articulated unit sails under the banner of KK Integrated Shipping, LLC of Menominee. MI, the parent company of Reserve Holdings LLC, Buckeye Holdings, LLC and Viking, LLC and is affiliated with KK Integrated Logistics of Menominee, MI.  KK Integrated Shipping, LLC operate and manage the unit.  The unit is utilized in the hauling of stone from Lake Huron quarries to destination ports on Lake Michigan and Lake Erie as well as iron ore from Superior, WI to Burns Harbor, IN and Cleveland, OH.  The James L. Kuber and tug Victory departed Menominee, MI April 13, 2008 on their maiden voyage as an articulated tug/barge unit bound for Port Inland, MI for a load of limestone.

In February 2011 Rand Logistics acquired the two self-unloading tug barges, Lewis J. Kuber and James L. Kuber, from KK Integrated Shipping for $35.5 million in cash as well as more than 1.3 million shares of its common stock. The vessels are operated by Grand River Navigation.

Late on the night of January 4, 2013 the connection system mating tug and barge failed cause the pair to split leaving the barge adrift on Lake Superior. Fleetmate Saginaw came to the aid of the tug Victory and helped locate the barge the next morning. The barge was then towed along side the Saginaw until it could be handed off to the tug Anglian Lady for tow back to the Soo for repairs.

 Overall Dimensions (metric)     

   Before Barge Conversion  After Barge Conversion
 Length  767' 00" (233.78m)  703' 08" (214.48m)
 Combined Length
 (with articulated tug Victory in notch)
 NA  815' 02" (248.46m)
 Beam  70' 00" (21.34m)  70' 00" (21.34m)
 Depth  36' 00" (10.97m)  36' 00" (10.97m)
 Capacity (mid-summer)  25,500 tons (25,910 mt)
 at draft of 27' 00" (8.23m)
 25,500 tons (25, 910 mt)
 Power (steam turbine)  7,700 s.h.p. (5,744 KW)  Removed


Leaving Menominee, MI Apr. 13, 2008 on
maiden voyage. Dick Lund

Stern view showing tug Victory in the notch.
Dick Lund

Another stern view, Apr. 13, 2008.
Scott Best

Connection system: Special photo gallery showing the connection system between tug and barge.

Victory-Pin-Head.jpg (125704 bytes)
(Click here)

Reserve Conversion 2007/08: Special photo gallery of the conversion of the Reserve to a self-unloading articulated barge.  Photos courtesy of Dick Lund.

(Click here)

Entering Green Bay, last powered trip,
July 31, 2007. Scott Best

Up the Fox River under the Tower Drive Bridge.
Scott Best

Fox River, another view. Scott Best

Detroit River, July 4, 2007. Wade Streeter

Loading at Calcite, MI, July 22, 2007.
Ben & Chanda McClain

Entering the St. Clair River with last cargo as a powered vessel, July 24, 2007. Bruce Hurd

Entering the St. Clair River at Point Edward, ON.
June 18, 2007. Marc Dease

Upbound at the Soo, June 30, 2007. Gordy Garris

Stern view. Gordy Garris

On Lake Superior taken from the tug Susan Hoey,
Apr. 2, 2007. Franz VonRiedel

Another view. Franz VonRiedel

Bow profile. Franz VonRiedel
St. Marys River  Dave Marcoux

Chief Shingwauk poses for a picture as the Reserve ties up.

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Toledo lay-up. Jim Hoffman

Stern view. Wade Streeter

Winter lay-up. David French

Detroit River. Todd Davidson

Under tow. David French

Unloading. Kent Rengo

Marquette (image edited to show both sides of dock) Lee Rowe

Boom extended for loading. Lee Rowe

Passing Detroit. John Belliveau

Pilot house. Wade Streeter

Close up. John Belliveau

Keweenaw Water Way in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Soo Line's ore dock at Ashland, WI, 1960's.
Chris Mazzella collection

As a straight decker. Jim Hoffman

Winter lay-up with the Fitz. Capt. Metz

On Lake St. Clair, May 6, 1992.
Skip Meier

Pushed aground by heavy ice flows in the St. Clair River off Algonac, MI, Dec. 29, 1995.
John Knecht

Aerial view, Aug. 30, 2001. Don Coles

Detroit River, June 1, 2002. Mike Nicholls

Close up, Aug. 28, 2001. Mike Nicholls

Self-unloader builder's conversion plate.
Dick Lund

Detroit River, Sept. 11, 2002. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Foggy St. Marys River. Jim Hoffman

Upbound at the Soo, Oct. 4, 2002.
Roger LeLievre

Aerial view, Sept. 30, 2002. Don Coles

Loading in Marquette. Lee Rowe

Close up. Lee Rowe

Inbound Lorain. Dave Edwards

St. Marys River. Roger LeLievre

Out bound Lorain, Aug. 29, 2001. TZ

Stern view., May 20, 2002 TZ

St. Marys River, May 30, 2002.
Roger LeLievre

Stack above the crowd at Engineers Day.
N. Schultheiss

Unloading Lorain, Oh. Dave Edwards

Detroit River. N. Schultheiss

Downbound the Detroit River, July 4, 2007.
Wade P. Streeter

Showing hatch crane bearing previous name Reserve as a tribute to the barge's history,
May 9, 2008. Marc Dease

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