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Loading in Escanaba

Rod Burdick

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Edgar B. Speer

by George Wharton

This twin-screw self-unloading bulk carrier was built in two sections. The forward cargo section was built by American Shipbuilding Co., Toledo, OH and was transferred to the Amship yard in Lorain, OH where it was mated up with the aft section. The thousand footer was launched May 8,1980 and was christened Edgar B. Speer on June 4, 1980 for the Great Lakes Fleet of the United States Steel Co., Duluth, MN. She is powered by two Pielstick V-18 cylinder 9630 horsepower diesel engines driving 2 controllable pitch propellers making her one of the most powerful vessels on the Great Lakes. Her rated service speed is 14.75 knots. She is equipped with a bow thruster. The Speer's 20 hatches feed 5 holds where she is capable of carrying 73,700 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 32 feet 1 inch. Her unusual self-unloading system consists of a stern mounted 52 foot transverse shuttle unloading boom designed specifically for shore hopper loading.

With the Edgar B. Speer entering service in 1980, seven smaller lakeboats were sent to the scrap yards. These were the Eugene J. Buffington, D. M. Clemson, Thomas F. Cole, Alva C. Dinkey, D. G. Kerr, Governor Miller, and the J. P. Morgan Jr. The Speer's first cargo consisted of 55,000 tons of taconite pellets from Two Harbors, MN to Gary, IN.

Her unique unloading system restricts the Speer's cargo to taconite pellets. The only two locations that can accept the Speer's unloading boom are located in Gary, IN and Conneaut, OH. Her fleet-mate Edwin H. Gott, also built with a similar self-unloader, was converted to a standard self-unloading system with a 280 foot stern-mounted discharge boom thus increasing her flexibility.

In August 2006 the Roger Bough lost its rudder in the lower St. Marys River and anchored near Lime Island. Fleet mate Edgar B. Speer arrived on scene three days later and the Blough was lashed along side the Speer for tow to Gary Indiana, the Blough original destination. The tow departed on August 9 and arrived in Gary on August 11. The Speer left the Blough at anchor while the Speer unloaded, both vessels use the same hopper to unload with their short unloading booms.

The Blough was then towed to Sturgeon Bay for repairs. The Blough was the third boat to lose a rudder in the same area of the St. Marys River in recent years.  The other two were the Edgar B. Speer and the Mississagi.

Overall dimensions
Length 1004'00"
Beam 105'00"
Depth 56'00"
Capacity (tons) 73,700
Diesel engine horsepower 19,600
Unloading boom 52'


Accommodation block. Jeff Thoreson

Winter Lay-up. Dick Lund

Ojibway servicing the Speer. Todd Davidson

Soo Locks March, 2002. N. Schultheiss

Unloading boom.

St. Clair River. John Meyland

Stern view.

Aerial view underway. Don Coles

Unloading in Conneaut. Jeff Thoreson

St. Marys River. Jim Hoffman

Towing the Blough in 2006. Mike George Collection

Towing the Blough in 2006. Mike George Collection

St. Marys River. Paul Beesley

Ballasted down for work.

Unloading at Conneaut. Jeff Thoreson

Winter lay-up

Johnson's Point. Jerry Masson

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