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Detroit River, July 23, 2004.

Mike Nicholls

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Atlantic Superior

by George Wharton

The first self unloader built for Canada Steamship Lines specifically for ocean trading was the product of two Canadian shipyards. The 600-foot (182.88m) stern portion was built as hull #222 by Collingwood Shipyards, Collingwood, ON and was launched November 9th, 1981 after a 3 day storm delay. After completion, the stern was towed by the tugs Wilfred M. Cohen and Miseford on May 8th, 1982 to Port Arthur Ship Building Co. (Portship), Thunder Bay, ON to be attached to the completed 130 foot (39.62m) bulbous bow constructed at that yard. The new self unloader was float launched on June 11th, 1982 with sea trials being completed June 25th. After proceeding in ballast to Superior, WI; the vessel sailed on her maiden voyage with a load of taconite to Sault Ste. Marie, ON where, before unloading, the vessel was formally christened Atlantic Superior on June 28th, 1982 on behalf of registered owners Federal Commerce & Navigation Ltd., Montreal, QC operating under the management of Canada Steamship Lines, Inc., Montreal, QC. The new self unloader’s name reflects on the vessel’s dual ocean/Great Lakes capabilities and service; “Atlantic” for the Atlantic Ocean and “Superior” for Lake Superior.

The Atlantic Superior’s 22 hatches service 5 holds where the vessel is capable of handling 38,945 tons (39,570 mt) at mid-summer draft of 35’08” (10.865m) and approximately 25,760 tons (26,174 mt) at the new Seaway draft of 26’06” (8.08m). The vessel's cubic capacity for coal is 29,241 tons (29,711 mt)*.  (Of note, hold three is divided into fore and aft sections.) Power comes from a single Sulzer model 6RLA66 single acting long stroke, two stroke cycle, 6 cylinder 11,095 b.h.p. (8,160 kW) diesel engine built by Sulzer Bros. Ltd., Winterhur, Switzerland burning intermediate grade 180 fuel. The power is fed to a single controllable pitch propeller in a Kort nozzle giving the vessel a speed of 17.3 m.p.h. The vessel is also equipped with a controllable pitch bow thruster. Self unloading equipment consists of a twin belt gravity fed system; the cargo being fed through hydraulically controlled gates. The two belts feed two stern cross conveyors to a single loop belt elevator system to a 261 foot (79.55m) unloading boom that can swing 90 degrees to port or starboard and unload at a rate of up to 5,413 tons (5,500 mt) of iron ore or 3,937 tons (4,000 mt) of coal per hour.

During her first year of operating, the Atlantic Superior was noted to have grounded September 29th, 1982 in the American Narrows of the St. Lawrence River near Wellesley Island. After lightering 2,000 of her 23,000 mt of wheat, the Atlantic Superior was freed, proceeding to Quebec City to unload, and then back to Thunder Bay for repair. While at anchor at Port Hawkesbury, NS on June 24th, 1984; a flash methane explosion and fire in the forecastle seriously burned one sailor. After doing coastal work during the 1984/1985 winter, the Atlantic Superior departed from the Bahamas for Longview, WA with salt returning to Baltimore, MD and Norfolk, VA with potash from Vancouver, BC. On August 7th, 1985; the vessel loaded a trial load of 30,000 net tons of coal at Immingham, UK bound for Sines, Portugal. She returned to Canada where an extensive refit was completed at Davie Shipyard, Lauzon, QC on March 11th, 1986.

On April 23rd, 1986; the Atlantic Superior’s registration was transferred to Nassau, Bahamas with the vessel returning to Europe where much of the next five years was spent carrying coal from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to Sines, Portugal; iron from Spain to the United Kingdom, and delivering 175,000 tons (177,811 mt) of “olivine” sand to a gravity weighted drilling platform off of Stavanger, Norway. On October 5th, 1987; the self unloader grounded at Sines with the resulting repairs requiring dry-docking at Setubal. Other assignments included delivering stone to the English Channel tunnel project connecting England and France in 1988.

In 1994, the Atlantic Superior was reassigned to the Pacific coast carrying gypsum from Mexican ports to the Pacific Northwest returning south with cargoes of coal, stone, or fertilizer.

On March 22nd, 1997; the Atlantic Superior arrived in Halifax, NS and was renamed M.H. Baker III entering service along the Atlantic seaboard carrying gypsum for National Gypsum Co. from Dartmouth and Little Narrows, NS to ports from Newington, NH south to Tampa, FL. The National Gypsum Co. and Canada Steamship Lines had entered into a long term contract for this service resulting in the renaming of the self unloader. The M.H. Baker III was named after the late Mr. Melvin Houston Baker; former President and Chairman of the Board of National Gypsum Co. The M.H. Baker III remained registered out of Nassau, Bahamas during this time with her ownership now being CSL International, Beverly, MA (division of Canada Steamship Lines, Inc., Montreal, QC).

On April 16th, 2003; the M.H. Baker III was officially reflagged Canadian and renamed Atlantic Superior with her home port now being Montreal, QC with ownership being transferred directly to Canada Steamship Lines, Inc., Montreal, QC. On April 24th, 2003; the Atlantic Superior returned to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes for the first time in a number of years; proceeding to Duluth, MN to load taconite for Nanticoke, ON. With the return of the Atlantic Superior to the Great Lakes, the last of the self unloaders built for CSL for dual ocean/lakes trading has come back to the Great Lakes from almost exclusive ocean trading; having been preceded by the return of the Atlantic Erie and Atlantic Huron.  The Atlantic Superior's return to the Great Lakes proved to be short-lived however.

The vessel developed engine trouble in late December of 2005 while on the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia.  She was in transit to Baltimore, MD with a load of coke from a Great Lakes port.  After drifting for about 12 hours, on January 2nd, 2006, she was able to limp into Halifax, NS on 5 of her 6 cylinders.  The cargo of coke was transferred to her fleet mate Atlantic Erie as the Atlantic Superior was docked for engine repair. She was then drydocked for Kort nozzle repairs as well.  After coming off of the drydock, the self-unloader was re-flagged out of the port of Nassau, Bahamas; Nassau being painted on her stern on February 4th, 2006.  Her Canadian registry was officially closed on February 2nd, 2006.  She then docked at the National Gypsum Co., Dartmouth, NS facility to load gypsum for a return to ocean trading.

*Since the standard measurement for coal is the net ton, the equivalent conversion is 32,750 net tons.

Overall Dimensions (metric)
Length  730’ 00” (222.50m)
Beam  75’ 10” (23.12m)
Depth  50’ 00” (15.24m)
Capacity (mid-summer)  38,945 tons (39,571 mt)
 at draft of 35' 08" (10.865m)
Power (diesel)  11,095 b.h.p. (8,160 kW)


Detroit River, July 28, 2004.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

New registration Feb. 4, 2006.
Mac Mackay

Stern view Mike Nicholls.

Detroit River Mike Nicholls

Stern view Mike Nicholls.

Soo Locks. Scott Best

Stern view entering the Poe Lock. Scott Best

Returning to the lakes. Chris Jackson

Name painted during transit of Seaway.
Chris Jackson

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