This unique traditional styled Great Lakes, self-unloading bulk carrier
was built by Port Weller Dry Docks, St. Catharines, ON (hull #41). She
was christened Canadian Century for Upper Lakes Group, Inc., Toronto, ON
on April 15, 1967 by Mrs. G.E. Gathercole, wife of the Chairman of the
Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario. The Leitch is
powered by a Burmeister & Wain type 574 VT2F 160 diesel engine rated at
7,394 b.h.p. at 115 r.p.m. burning intermediate grade 180 fuel driving a
controllable pitch propeller giving the vessel at service speed of 14.5
knots. She is equipped with a 1,000 horsepower bow thruster. Her
enormous single hold is fed by 22 hatches. She can carry 25,700 tons at
maximum Seaway draft of 26 feet and is capable of carrying 31,600 tons
at her maximum mid-summer draft of 29 feet 4 1/2 inches. Capacities
include 465 tonnes of fuel oil, 75 tonnes of diesel oil, 186 tonnes of
potable water, and 17,348 tonnes of water ballast.
The John D. Leitch's original self-unloading system consisted of a
single center-line conveyor belt gravity system with a 300-ton reclaimer
feeding a bucket/hopper elevator system leading to a forward-mounted 250
foot discharge boom. The reclaimer consisted of 2 auger screws, each
26 feet long and 7 feet high. As they would turn, the cargo would be
forced forward to the bucket elevator system. It could discharge at a
rate of up to 4,000 tonnes per hour. Due to the technological advances
in self-unloading systems, the Canadian Century's bucket elevator system
was replaced in 1975/76 with a modern loop belt elevator system. The
system can now discharge at a rate of up to 4,572 tonnes per hour. The
discharge boom can be swung 95 degrees to port or starboard.
In December 2001 the Leitch entered Port Weller Dry Docks for a mid life refit.
The $25-million (C) refit was similar to the work that the shipyard completed on
the CSL Tadoussac the winter before. The bow and stern sections remained intact,
along with most of the main deck. The cargo hold and the rest of the midsection
were replaced with a new, larger cargo hold, a one-belt self-unloading system
with a flat tank top. When it returned to
service in May of 2002 it not only carried more cargo, but could operate more
efficiently through the increased use of technology.
At the time of her launch, the vessel was the largest capacity
self-unloading vessel on the Great Lakes. Her unique squared hull
design reduced wasted space thus increasing her tonnage. Her tall
wheelhouse and forward accommodations has given her the distinction of
being known as the "little bank building on floats".
The Leitch was built specifically to accommodate U.L.S.'s
first contract to carry coal for Ontario Hydro. During her first season
of operations, she made 63 trips delivering coal totaling 1.7 million
tons. On Dec. 8, 1967; she set a Welland Canal coal record by carrying
28,283 tons from Conneaut, OH to Dofasco, Hamilton, ON. June 18, 1969
saw the Canadian Century load a Conneaut, OH record of 31,081 tons of
coal for Ontario Hydro's Lambton Generating Station at Courtright, ON.
In her early years, she would sail to Sept Isles, PQ to rendezvous with
her former fleet mate Ontario Power to transfer coal loaded aboard the
latter vessel at Sydney, NS for delivery to Nanticoke, ON. The Canadian
Century carried her first load of taconite ore pellets in 1986 when she
loaded 25,427 tons at Pointe Noire, PQ for Hamilton, ON. The vessel has
carried cargoes of salt from ports such as Goderich, ON and Fairport,
OH. She is also noted to have carried the odd cargo of grain products.
The Leitch currently sails under the management of Seaway
Marine Transport, St. Catharines, ON (partnership of Algoma Central and
Upper Lakes Group). With the exception of the converted steamer James
Norris, the vessel is now the oldest self-unloader in the
Upper Lakes fleet.
At St. Catharines, ON on Mar. 23, 2001; the vessel was honored in
the traditional Top Hat ceremony recognizing the passing of the first upbound
vessel through the Welland Canal for the 2001 navigation season.
On February 25, 2011, a formal statement was issued announcing
the sale of the privately owned Upper Lakes Shipping fleet and their associated
interest in Seaway Marine Transport to Algoma Central Corporation. Former
Upper Lakes Chairman of the Board, company spokesman and owner John D. ("Jack")
Leitch stated "It is with some regret and sadness that I tell you that we have
decided to sell the vessels of Upper Lakes Shipping and our interest in Seaway
Marine Transport to Algoma Central Corporation. A definitive agreement has been
signed and the deal is anticipated to close in about a month. By the end of this
season the proud logo on the funnels of Upper Lakes vessels will no longer be
seen on the Great Lakes or along the St. Lawrence River." Jack further
states "For 80 years we have been a part of the Canadian landscape and of the
fabric of the Canadian economy." The Upper Lakes Shipping fleet will takes
its place in modern Canadian Great Lakes history as having been a prominent
player in the economic development of the regions served by the Great Lakes and
St. Lawrence Seaway system. On April 15, 2011, Algoma announced that the
John D. Leitch will retain her current name.