American Spirit Runs Aground in Duluth


As many probably know by now, the 1,004-foot American Spirit ran aground in the Duluth harbor yesterday afternoon while attempting to depart. The ship was carrying a full load of iron ore pellets from the CN dock, and was just about to enter the ship canal when she veered off course and started heading for the seawall to the left of the bridge. The ship dropped her anchors in an attempt to stop, however her bow made contact with the sandy harbor bottom. American Spirit was brought to an abrupt halt about 30 feet off the seawall, with her stern blocking the entrance to the harbor. She remained aground throughout the evening, and was finally freed around 10:00 p.m. by the rising tide. Once she was free, the Spirit backed to the Husky Energy dock, where she underwent numerous inspections. The vessel was cleared for departure, and left Duluth just after 9:00 a.m. on Monday, bound for Indiana Harbor to deliver her cargo. (Photo above taken by Mark Nicklawske, courtesy of Perfect Duluth Day)


U.S. Coast Guard vessels inspected the area around the grounded vessel on Sunday afternoon to ensure that the ship wasn’t leaking fuel (photo courtesy of Duluth News Tribune).


This photo, from Dennis O’Hara of Duluth Harbor Cam, shows just how close the vessel actually got to the seawall. Dennis also put together a video with drone footage of the grounded ship that is worth checking out.

American Victory: 1942-2018

The historic steamer American Victory departed Duluth on the morning of Sunday, June 17, under tow of the tug Tim McKeil. The ship is bound for a scrapyard at Aliaga, Turkey, where she will be broken up. The McKeil will tow the vessel, renamed Victo, as far as Montreal, where she will be picked up by an ocean-going tug and towed across the Atlantic to the scrapyard.

The vessel was originally constructed as a tanker for service in World War II,  and was launched on Halloween 1942 as the USS Neshanic. She was stuck by a Japanese bomb on June 18, 1944, while refueling a destroyer, however was repaired and returned to service. She was decommissioned in December of 1945.


The tanker entered commercial service in 1947 as Gulfoil for the Gulf Oil Company, and her career was mostly uneventful until August 7, 1958, when she collided with the tanker S. E. Graham off the coast of Rhode Island. The Graham exploded, and as a result, the Gulfoil was heavily damaged and most of her crew perished. The vessel was taken to Baltimore, where it was determined that the ship was repairable. She was converted to straight deck bulk carrier, her pilothouse and forward cabins were moved to the bow, and she was lengthened and widened to her current dimensions (730 feet long, 75 feet wide). She was purchased by the Pioneer Steamship Company, renamed Pioneer Challenger, and entered Great Lakes service on July 16, 1961.


The vessel only carried the name Pioneer Challenger for two seasons, as the Pioneer Steamship Company disbanded shortly after purchasing the vessel. She was sold to the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton in 1962, and renamed Middletown. The vessel was converted to a self-unloader in 1982 at Bay Shipbuilding, further increasing her viability.


She served Oglebay Norton for nearly 50 years before the company sold its fleet to various buyers in 2006. Middletown, along with five other fleetmates, was purchased by the American Steamship Company and renamed American Victory. The vessel finished out the 2006 season and operated during both the 2007 and 2008 seasons.


American Victory arrived in Duluth on November 12, 2008, and laid up at Fraser Shipyards, never to run again. In December of 2017, it was announced that American Steamship had sold the Victory, along with fleetmates American Valor, Buffalo, and Adam E. Cornelius, to the Algoma Central Corp. Algoma initially stated that it was “exploring options” for the vessel, however they announced in March that they had ultimately decided to scrap the ship. (All photos above courtesy of


I took this photo a few winters back, showing American Victory laid up at Elevator M in Superior.

American Victory in Fraser Shipyards

The vessel was brought back to Fraser Shipyards a few weeks ago to have her self-unloading boom and other equipment removed before she was towed away for scrap. This shot was taken by Dennis O’Hara. He also put together a nice video from various harbor cameras showing the vessel’s final departure from Duluth.

American Victory departs Duluth for scrap

This photo was taken by Jeff Doty as American Victory was towed from the harbor and into Lake Superior.


Algoma Scrapping Updates

AMERICAN VICTORY UPDATE: The tug Tim McKeil arrived in Duluth on the morning of Saturday, June 16, to tow the American Victory for scrap. The vessel, her name shortened to Victo for the scrap tow, has had her self-unloading boom and other equipment removed to be re-purposed for other vessels. Unless current plans change, the historic vessel will be towed out of the Superior entry at 06:00 on the morning of Sunday, June 17. This will be the first time the vessel has left the harbor since arriving for layup in the fall of 2008. Tim McKeil will tow her as far as Montreal, where overseas tugs will take over and tow the Victory across the Atlantic Ocean to Aliaga, Turkey, where the ship will ultimately meet her end.

Aside from the Victory, a number of other vessels formerly owned by Algoma Central Corp. are currently on their way to various scrapyards to be broken up. Algoma Olympic, under tow of the tug VB Hispania, arrived in Aliaga, Turkey earlier this week, where the ship will be beached and cut up. Her former fleetmates Algolake and Algosteel are currently under tow in the Atlantic Ocean. Both vessels will arrive at the scrapyard later this month.

Meanwhile, the retired laker Algoway was towed from Goderich, Ontario last week, bound for the scrapyard at Port Colborne, Ont. Her sister Algorail remains laid up in Goderich, but is expected to be towed for scrap within the next few weeks.