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 Downbound St. Clair River.

Ken Hamilton

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Walter J. McCarthy Jr.

By George Wharton

  Built in two sections by Bay Shipbuilding Co., Sturgeon Bay, WI; this twin-screw self-unloading bulk carrier was christened as the Belle River on July 12,1977 for the American Steamship Co. She was the first thousand-footer built at Bay Shipbuilding and currently is 1 of 13 such vessels plying the Great Lakes. This design was used in the construction of the thousand footers Burns Harbor, Columbia Star, Indiana Harbor, and the Oglebay Norton.

The McCarthy is powered by 4 V-20 3600 horsepower GM diesel engines. These engines are arranged in pairs; each pair connected to a gear reduction box driving a four blade 17.22 foot diameter controllable pitch propeller. This arrangement permits one engine of each pair to drive each propeller shaft for more economical cruising. She is equipped with 1500 horsepower bow and stern thrusters. Her 37 hatches feed into 7 holds where she is capable of carrying 78,850 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 34 feet. Her self-unloading equipment consists of a loop belt conveyor feeding a stern-mounted 250 foot unloading boom that can be swung 92 degrees to port or starboard and can discharge at a rate of up to 6000 short tons of coal per hour.

The Belle River was the sixth of ten vessels built for American Steamships under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970. This program allowed fleets to build new or modernize existing vessels by government guaranteed financing and tax deferred benefits.

Belle River was renamed Walter J. McCarthy Jr. after the newly retired Chairman of the Board of Detroit Edison on May 25,1990. This vessel is used almost exclusively to carry low sulfur western coal from the Superior Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior, WI to the Detroit Edison Belle River Power Plant at St. Clair, MI (Recor Point). She occasionally delivers this low sulfur coal to Detroit Edison in Monroe, MI and also carries the odd spot load of taconite pellets. The McCarthy is capable of carrying such other cargoes as limestone and grain.


Overall dimensions
Length 1000'00"
Beam 105'00"
Depth 56'00"
Capacity (tons) 78,850
Diesel horsepower 14,000
Self-unloading boom 250'


Loading SMET. Gordon A. Williams

Close up.  Gordon A. Williams

Mission Point. Mary Ledbetter


As the Belle River. Roger LeLievre

Aerial view as the McCarthy. Don Coles

Stern view. N. Schultheiss

Aerial view. Don Coles

Duluth. Al Miller

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Aerial view. Don Coles

Stern view. Don Coles

Unloading St. Clair Edison. John Meyland

Duluth. Rob Farrow

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