Fire Aboard St. Clair in Toledo

American Steamship Company’s self-unloader St. Clair, laid up for the winter at the Torco docks in Toledo, Ohio, suffered a serious fire on Saturday, February 16. The fire broke out aboard the 770-foot vessel at approximately 8:30 Saturday night, and numerous fire crews from the Toledo area struggled to contain the rapidly spreading flames. The blaze overtook her entire stern, accommodations block, and self-unloading equipment, in addition to the entire length of her self-unloading boom and numerous decks within the hull. Only one fire hydrant in the vicinity was operational due to the cold weather, and a lack of water combined with the size of the fire significantly hampered the effort. The blaze was finally extinguished two days after it began, leaving 48 hours worth of destruction behind. The adjacently docked Great Republic and John J. Boland have not been reported to have suffered any damage from the flames, and an aerial observation by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday morning determined that there is no pollution in the Maumee River. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported, however preliminary observations and photos paint a vivid picture of the true extent of the damage the 44-year old vessel has suffered. It has been confirmed that both of the ship’s main conveyor belts that comprise her unloading system burned and melted, and her pilothouse and crew quarters have been gutted. In addition, severe steel warping has occurred in all areas of her stern, and her accommodation block has sunk slightly into the hull of the ship, with a visible tilt to starboard. The ship has also taken on a starboard list, however it is unclear whether that water entered the hull from a leak or whether it was due to the firefighting effort. The cause of the tragic blaze is unknown, as is the future of St. Clair. A full investigation into the blaze, as well as a damage assessment, will commence as soon as it is deemed safe to enter the vessel.

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This drone shot is from early Saturday evening, when fire crews were first called to the St. Clair (courtesy of Kevin Pollock, Facebook). Great Republic is the vessel on the left.

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Water can be seen pouring off the stern of the ship as smoke billows around her crew quarters (courtesy USCG).

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Although not the best shot, this image from the height of the blaze shows the entire length of St. Clair‘s self-unloading boom on fire (source unknown).

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This photo was taken from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Sunday afternoon, and shows the blackened accommodations block and deck of the smoldering St. Clair. Great Republic (left) and John J. Boland (right) are moored in the foreground (courtesy USCG).

The following photos were taken on Tuesday, and show the extent of the damage to St. Clair‘s pilothouse and crew quarters (courtesy of Corey Hammond, Boatnerd.com).

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Algoma Conveyor begins Journey to Canada

The newest member of Algoma Central’s fleet has began her maiden voyage to Canada. Algoma Conveyor departed the shipyard at Jiangsu, China, on Saturday, and is expected to arrive in the Philippines on February 22 where she will refuel and prepare for the trans-Pacific voyage that will bring her through the Panama Canal and up the U.S. East Coast. Once she arrives on the Great Lakes after the approximately two-month voyage, the ship will be reflagged and registered Canadian and the foreign crew bringing her to Canada will be replaced by a Canadian crew. She is expected to enter operational service for Algoma in late April or early May of 2019.

Back in 2012 when the Equinox class was initially planned out, orders for eight vessels were placed at the Nantong Heavy Industries shipyard in Nantong City, China – the first four would be gearless bulk carriers, and the latter four would be self-unloaders. Construction on Algoma Conveyor began back in 2015 at the yard in Nantong City, however that yard declared bankruptcy later that year with contracts unfilled and half-finished hulls for Algoma still under construction. The incomplete hull of Algoma Conveyor was purchased by Algoma at auction in 2017, and was transported to Jiangsu New Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Co. to be refurbished and completed.

Algoma Conveyor, a 740-foot “Seawaymax” vessel, will become the eighth member of Algoma’s Equinox class, and the fourth self-unloader, to join the fleet. The first three gearless bulkers were delivered on time and according to their contracts – Algoma Equinox entered service in 2013, while Algoma Harvester and G3 Marquis (originally built as CWB Marquis) arrived on the Lakes in 2014. The next few years saw no new arrivals from China while the shipyard was experiencing its financial troubles. The remaining hulls and contracts were shifted to the Jiangsu yard, and after a three-year gap in arrivals, the final straight decker, Algoma Strongfield, joined the fleet in 2017. Algoma Niagara arrived on the Lakes just in time for the end of the 2017 season, and Algoma Sault entered service in early 2018. Algoma Innovator, the first of two planned smaller 650-foot vessels built at the 3Maj shipyard in Croatia, also entered service in 2018, and her sister ship Algoma Endurance was expected to be delivered before the 2018 season came to a close. However, the shipyard failed to complete the vessel on time and Algoma cancelled the contract, likely leaving the nearly-finished hull in limbo and up for sale to another possible buyer. With the delivery of Algoma Conveyor, the company has no forthcoming new constructions, however they currently hold contracts with the Jiangsu yard for up to five additional Equinox vessels to be constructed in the near future.

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Algoma Conveyor‘s predecessor and sister ship, Algoma Niagara, is seen here departing the Jiangsu shipyard in China in the fall of 2017. The Conveyor will look identical to her sisters already in service.

Winter Updates, Part III

With the Soo Locks now closed for the season, most of the Great Lakes fleet has tied up for the winter. On Lake Superior, there are a total of six active vessels laid up in the Twin Ports this winter. Mesabi Miner is moored at Midwest Energy; ASC fleetmates H. Lee White and American Spirit are laid up at Elevator M and Lakehead Pipeline, respectively; and Tim S. Dool, Lee A. Tregurtha, and Kaye E. Barker are all wintering at Fraser. Also at the shipyard is William A. Irvin, which will be drydocked after the Dool‘s work is complete. The Irvin will receive hull maintenance and repairs as well as a new coat of paint before being returned to the Minnesota Slip in the spring, where she will be reopened for tours. Two additional vessels, American Century and Burns Harbor, were both expected to lay up in Duluth, however neither ship made it up through the Soo Locks before they closed on January 15. The Century ended up in Toledo for the winter, while ASC surprisingly sent Burns Harbor back to Sturgeon Bay. In long-term layup in the Twin Ports are Arthur M. Anderson, tied at CN, and Edward L. Ryerson, at the Barko dock near the CHS elevators. Unlike recent rumors have indicated, there are no plans to scrap either vessel, and they may return to service at any time as economic conditions warrant.

There are ten ships laid up at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay so far, and the shipyard has been full of activity as of late. The McKeil barge Huron Spirit arrived last week Friday morning, pushed by the tug Sharon M I. The tug departed shortly after dropping her barge off to continue winter operations. Paul R. Tregurtha also arrived on Friday, and was immediately placed in drydock. This year’s layup fleet at the shipyard includes American Courage, John G. Munson, Joseph L. Block, barge A-397, Roger Blough, James R. Barker, Burns Harbor, Cason J. Callaway, barge Huron Spirit, and Paul R. Tregurtha. Wilfred Sykes is still running cargo between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and will likely be the last arrival in Sturgeon Bay for the 2018 season when she lays up at the end of January. The new barge Commander, pushed by Bradshaw McKee, departed the shipyard last week, and headed for Charlevoix to load her first cargo of cement. The barge has spent the last two seasons at BayShip being converted from an open-topped cargo barge to an articulated, self-unloading powdered cement carrier. Work included the addition of an entirely new bow, cargo holds, and a bow thruster, and the barge was lengthened significantly to increase her cargo capacity.

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For comparison’s sake, here’s a “before” shot of the barge before conversion work began. She was previously known as Cleveland Rocks, and primarily hauled bulk cargo on the lower lakes.

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I took this shot back in November, showing the newly converted barge tied up at Bay Shipbuilding and awaiting pickup.

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This photo shows the Commander/tug Bradshaw McKee arriving at Chicago with her first payload of cement (courtesy of Christine Douglas, Facebook).

Lastly, Lower Lakes Towing has finally given a new name to their James L. Kuber. The barge just emerged from drydock at the DonJon Shipyard in Erie, and the name Maumee is now displayed on her freshly painted hull. This name was last carried by a 1929-built vessel that previously operated for U.S. Steel as the Calcite II. She was sold to Lower Lakes in 2001, and was scrapped at Port Colborne, Ontario, in 2011.

When K&K Integrated Logistics disbanded and sold their two barges (James L. Kuber and Lewis J. Kuber) to Lower Lakes in 2011, part of the contract was that the vessels would retain their names for a certain number of years, which is why they weren’t renamed when they began operating for Grand River Navigation. LLT renamed the Lewis J. to Menominee last year, and have now finally changed James L.‘s name. The dedicated tug that has been paired with Menominee, Olive L. Moore, will be sent for scrap next year, and the barge will be pushed by Invincible starting next season. The new Maumee will continue to be pushed by the tug Victory.

Winter Updates, Part II

As the closing date of the Soo Locks rapidly approaches on January 15th, the shipping season is finally winding down. Sturgeon Bay has already seen its first few arrivals for the winter, and the majority of Duluth’s layup fleet is expected within the next week.

American Courage, John G. Munson, Joseph L. Block, and the tug/barge combo A-397/tug Barbara Andrie are all tied up at Bay Shipbuilding for the winter. The shipyard has also released an updated schedule of arrivals:

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One addition to this list is the Roger Blough, which was originally scheduled to lay up in Duluth but has switched to Sturgeon Bay. Her tentative arrival date is unknown. Also of note, the Port City Marine tug Bradshaw McKee is scheduled to arrive at Bay Shipbuilding on January 9th to pick up the barge Commander, which has spent the last two seasons at the yard being converted to a self-unloading cement carrier. Rumors are flying now in regard to how PCM will organize their fleet, however that likely won’t be determined until the 2019 shipping season begins in a few months.

A preliminary layup list for the Duluth/Superior harbor has also been released. As of now, Tim S. Dool, which arrived on January 1st and is in drydock at Fraser Shipyards, is the only ship tied up for the winter, however that will likely change later this week. Duluth is expecting a grand total of eight vessels to lay up in port this winter, which is a larger number than in previous years, in addition to the Arthur M. Anderson and Edward L. Ryerson that are in long-term layup. That list consists of the following vessels: American Spirit (Port Terminal), American Century (Lakehead Pipeline), Burns Harbor (Elevator M), Mesabi Miner (Midwest Energy), Tim S. Dool, Kaye E. Barker, Lee A. Tregurtha, and H. Lee White (Fraser Shipyards).

I intend to make a trip to both Sturgeon Bay and Duluth during the off-season to photograph the layup fleet, so stay tuned for those photos!

Disappointment in Duluth (Sort Of)

This past weekend, I traveled to both Sturgeon Bay and Duluth, however the results of the latter trip were not as good as I had expected.

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I visited Sturgeon Bay on Saturday, where the only vessel tied up in the shipyard was the John G. Munson, which had just arrived the previous day for winter layup.

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The Munson is technically the second ship to lay up at Sturgeon Bay, after American Courage, which has been in long-term layup at the shipyard for the past few seasons. This will be John G.‘s second year in a row wintering at Bay Shipbuilding.

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After Burns Harbor departed on December 21, American Courage was placed in the drydock, where she will receive extensive hull work and possibly her five-year survey in preparation for her re-entry into service in the spring. She was sharing the dock with Commander, which you can see on the left. Recently converted to a self-unloading cement carrier, rumors indicate that the barge will be picked up sometime in January.

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The ice-coated shrubbery along the shore made for a unique shot with the shipyard in the background.

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I didn’t stay in Sturgeon Bay for long, as our next destination was Duluth. We arrived there on Sunday night, and I went out late that night to catch the arrival of Walter J. McCarthy Jr.

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Of course my camera’s flash was on when I attempted to take bow shots, completely washing them out, so these stern views will have to do. The McCarthy was coming in to load coal at Midwest Energy on this particular visit.

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And now here’s where we get to the disappointing part. On New Year’s Eve, the stormy weather prevented any ship traffic from arriving or departing, but of course the weather calmed enough while I was at dinner to allow the McCarthy to depart and the Mesabi Miner to arrive for a load of coal. Although I missed those two, I was able to catch the departure of CSL Tadoussac a few minutes before 2019 began.

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The Tadoussac had spent a few days at anchor outside the harbor waiting to load in Two Harbors, but had ultimately changed orders and arrived Duluth on Sunday to load iron ore pellets at Canadian National.

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She quietly headed into the night, and her lights made some great reflections on the water.

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Then comes more disappointment: Tim S. Dool, which had dropped anchor on Monday night, made her surprise arrival on the morning of New Year’s Day, so I missed that as well. Mesabi Miner left port later in the morning, and I stepped outside the hotel to grab this shot. Temperatures were hovering right around zero, and the Miner was headed straight for a cloud of sea smoke blanketing Lake Superior.

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On our way out of town, we made one last stop at Fraser Shipyards in the hopes of making up for the boats lost throughout the weekend. Nearly buried in ice, the historic museum ship William A. Irvin was quietly sitting at the dock.

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The US Steel ore carrier, launched in 1937, was pulled from the Minnesota Slip near the lift bridge a few months back to allow for her dock to be rebuilt. She will spend the winter at Fraser Shipyards, where she will be drydocked for hull work and a new coat of paint, before being returned to her slip in the spring to resume her role as a floating museum.

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I finally caught up to Tim S. Dool, just putting her mooring lines ashore at the shipyard behind the Irvin. Two G-tugs, visible here on the right near her stern, assisted the ship to her dock.

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The Dool is the first vessel to arrive for winter layup at Duluth, and is the second Canadian vessel to winter in the Twin Ports ever. In a very surprising move by Algoma, the 1967-built vessel will be drydocked, painted, and receive her five-year survey at Fraser this winter.

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Many boatwatchers, including myself, speculated that she would be retired at the end of this season, however Algoma obviously sees at least a few years’ worth of service left in her hull, and are scrapping her fleetmates Capt. Henry Jackman and Algowood instead.

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I’ll end this post with one last view of the Dool, which (for now) has been saved from the scrapper’s torch.

Lastly, I’d like to wish all of my readers a very happy New Year, and extend my thanks to you for sticking with me. This blog has grown immensely over the last few months especially, and I’m hopeful that it will see similar growth in 2019. The upcoming year will bring some new adventures for me as well, as I’ll be graduating high school and beginning the four-year Bachelor’s degree program at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in the fall. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, and wish you a happy and successful 2019!

Winter Updates, Part I

As the 2018 shipping season draws to a close on the Great Lakes, Sturgeon Bay is seeing an increase in activity at Bay Shipbuilding. Burns Harbor, which had arrived earlier in December and spent a few weeks in drydock receiving her five-year survey and a new coat of paint, departed on December 21 to resume service for the remainder of the season. American Courage and the cement barge Commander, which I photographed back in November at the shipyard, were both placed in drydock a few days after Burns Harbor‘s departure. The Courage reportedly needs a great deal of steel work in order to re-enter service next season, and the fact that American Steamship is willing to proceed with the work is a positive sign that other laid-up vessels may be re-activated in the coming years.

The first official member of Sturgeon Bay’s winter layup fleet has not yet arrived, however it will likely be the John G. Munson. Although she wasn’t scheduled to arrive until late January, she has dropped anchor in the bay of Green Bay with a posted destination of Sturgeon Bay. Reports indicate that she may have suffered hull damage recently, and Great Lakes Fleet has opted to lay her up early to prevent further problems from occurring. The Munson is probably waiting for weather conditions to calm before she arrives, as Sturgeon Bay isn’t exactly the easiest port to navigate into or out of.

Lastly, further reports indicate that two Algoma Central vessels, Capt. Henry Jackman and Algowood, are on their final trips before being scrapped. Both ships are currently carrying their final loads before heading to Montreal for layup, where they will likely remain until being towed overseas to be broken up in 2019. They will bring the total of hulls scrapped by Algoma Central alone this season to eight, quite an astonishing number. Over the course of 2018, Algoma sent Algoma Olympic, Algolake, Algosteel, American Victory, Algoway, and Algorail to overseas scrapyards.

Burns Harbor arrives in Sturgeon Bay, plus Bay Shipbuilding’s Winter Schedule

American Steamship’s 1,000 foot Burns Harbor arrived in Sturgeon Bay on Sunday morning, and was quickly placed in drydock. The ship, which rarely visits Sturgeon Bay, will be receiving her 5-year survey as well as routine maintenance work, and hopefully a new coat of paint as well. She won’t be staying the winter though – her work will likely be complete around Christmas, at which time she’ll depart and finish out the 2018 season hauling ore before laying up in Milwaukee or Superior like she usually does.

Meanwhile, a tentative list of the ships that will lay up at Bay Shipbuilding this winter has been released:

Keep in mind that this is a preliminary schedule, and is subject to change at any time based on vessel orders and weather conditions. Of note, however, is the drydocking of American Courage after the Burns Harbor‘s work is complete. The Courage has been inactive for three seasons now, however she will return to service in 2019.