Despite the effects of the short-lived S.I.U. strike which kept many vessels in winter quarters long past their projected sailing dates, navigation got off to an early start in the Lake Ontario region thanks to Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. whose ships are manned by crews belonging to a different union. CANADIAN HUNTER was the first ship out of Toronto and she left March 25th, proceeding down the lake and making the first downbound passage when the Seaway opened. First ship up the Welland Canal was the venerable MEAFORD which entered Lock One on the morning of March 29th. Her skipper, Capt. Ted Courtemanche received the usual top hat in a traditional ceremony. MEAFORD was followed by a convoy of ten ships, nine from the Upper Lakes Shipping fleet plus the tanker CONGAR, and the upbound parade was joined by ONTARIO POWER which had emerged from Port Weller Dry Docks. The first downbound vessel to make the canal was SEAWAY QUEEN, also on March 29th. One of the Upper Lakes ships in the opening day convoy also managed to open the Soo Locks. R. BRUCE ANGUS passed up the Soo on April 2nd bound for Thunder Bay.
American lake shipyards should be minting money shortly from the raft of orders now placed with various yards. Last month we reviewed the situation at Sturgeon Bay but this month attention focuses on the American Shipbuilding Company's yard at Lorain which now has an order for a 1000-foot self-unloading bulk carrier for the National Steel Corp. Costing about $35-million, the vessel will be a stemwinder with capacity of 59,000 gross tons of iron ore, and she will be twin screw, the propulsion being two 8,000 h.p. diesels. She will follow the two self-unloaders already ordered by Interlake and she should be ready for delivery in 1978.
It has now been announced that the buyers of the Kinsman Marine Transit Company's steamers BEN MOREELL and A. T. LAWSON are a group of investors operating under the name of S & E Shipping Corporation, Wilmington, Delaware. The sale of the two vessels brings Kinsman into technical compliance with the divestiture order obtained by the U. S. Justice Department after the purchase by Kinsman of the Wilson fleet in 1972. The only problem is that, as suspected, the new buyers have several similarities in personnel with the group that in 1973 purchased the Great Lakes Towing Company from AmShip (Kinsman's parent) and it is to be expected that LAWSON and MOREELL will be chartered back to Kinsman if the Justice Department does not again intervene. As a matter of fact, as we go to press we hear that both ships now have funnel designs only slightly different than before - gone is the "S" from the stack, and the green band is now blue while the silver bands are now white. Other colours are the same and the crews are the same as last year. There are rumours making the rounds to the effect that S & E may eventually wind up with more Kinsman boats in their fleet but this is, of course, simply speculation.
In our last issue, we reported that KINSMAN VOYAGER, HARRY L. ALLEN and SILVER BAY would definitely not operate this year, but once again it seems that there are conflicting reports. One observer has seen VOYAGER all painted up at Toledo and this may mean she will see service. VOYAGER operated only the early part of the 1973 season and laid up in late May. Appointments have also been announced for SILVER BAY, so she also may be operated, although we would tend to doubt the probability of this. KINSMAN INDEPENDENT will not operate, however, and is to be sold for scrapping. Not only did she damage herself in an incident in the Neebish Rock Cut last August, but she apparently needs reboilering. Nevertheless, there is one good piece of news. JAMES E. FERRIS is alive and kicking and will be her usual photogenic self around the lakes in 1974.
Speaking of the Steinbrenner empire, we should perhaps note that George M.Steinbrenner himself is in more hot water than simply the cupful that was poured on him in the antitrust action. Indeed, he is in the hot water up to his eyeballs as a result of an illegal contribution of $25,000 allegedly made by American Shipbuilding to the Nixon re-election campaign in 1972 together with subsequent efforts to cover up the contribution. John Melcher, executive vice-president of AmShip, has already pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the cover-up and Steinbrenner himself was indicted on numerous counts on April 5th, his arraignment being scheduled for April 19th. It rather looks to your editor as though Steinbrenner is being made a whipping boy in this case, possibly to divert the "heat" from an administration which is running scared, and it will be interesting to see the effect of this on the Steinbrenner shipping interests.
The first scrap tow of the season was the former BoCo self-unloader BEN W. CALVIN which was brought down the Welland on April 12 by G. W. ROGERS and SALVAGE MONARCH. We understand that she is to go across the Atlantic in tandem tow with JACK WIRT. In addition, indications are that BoCo may also dispose of HARRIS N. SNYDER for scrapping.
A staff reduction by the Corps of Engineers at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, will mean a loss of 38 jobs around the American locks. Some of the eliminated duties will now be let out to private firms but the town is crying the blues since an increase in unemployment is hardly what the doctor ordered. More to the point as far as we are concerned is the removal from the payroll of 13 men who recorded the passages of ships through the locks. As a result, vessel passages from the Soo will no longer be available to newspapers (although only two papers that we know of were carrying them anyway) and the only passages readily available in the press will now be those from Detroit.
A short labour dispute involving six Bradley (or now more correctly U.S. Steel, if you want to be formal) self-unloaders erupted on March 16 at Rogers City, Michigan. It seems that crewmen were objecting to plans to introduce pre-prepared food aboard ship, a move which would allow a reduction in galley crews. The wildcat walkout was ended in less than a week by court order.
The diminutive bulk cement carrier PEERLESS which has been idle for several years at Cleveland will soon be making an appearance on Lake Ontario. The Erie Navigation Company, owners of the vessel, have contracted with the Rochester Portland Cement Company for the use of the carrier on the cement run from Picton to Rochester. Another vessel of the same fleet, the Erie Canal motorship DAY PECKINPAUGH, was operating on the route early this spring but she moved down the barge canal once it opened for the season. PEERLESS moved under her own power on April 26 to Port Weller where she will be refurbished prior to taking up her new duties.
A rather strange visitor to the Welland Canal this spring has been the Bethlehem bulk carrier JOHNSTOWN which passed down the canal on April 11th en route to Picton for ore. She was back up the canal again on April 13th. Her trip gave lower lake observers a chance to see the new Bethlehem stack colours. The design centres on the I-beam insignia between two very narrow white bands on the usual buff funnel. The black smokeband has, however, been made so narrow that it makes the whole design seem unbalanced and on JOHNSTOWN the total effect is not pleasing.
Another Bethlehem steamer to appear in the canal so far this year is STEELTON (minus the new stack insignia) which passed down a few days after JOHNSTOWN. Upbound on the evening of April 18th with a cargo of ore from Picton, STEELTON was approaching the double jack-knife bridge at Homer (Bridge 4) when the structure experienced a mechanical failure. The bridge began to lift but apparently only one of the leaves opened fully and STEELTON was forced to make an emergency stop. She dropped her anchor but continued ahead and although she managed to avoid contact with the bridge itself, her hook snagged the submarine electrical cable in the draw between the bridge piers. The controls of the bridge were knocked out of service. STEELTON continued on her way undamaged but the bridge was out of operation for about a week while repairs were undertaken.
The first major accident of the season occurred at about 8:15 p.m. on April 15th when the tanker IMPERIAL SARNIA, downbound with a cargo of crude for Montreal, grounded on Whaleback Shoal about five miles west of Brockville in the upper St. Lawrence River. Although there were indications that the ship may have been slightly off course at the time, very little detail was available at the time of writing. Three of the SARNIA's starboard tanks ruptured on contact with the rocky bottom and for some nine hours crude escaped into the river. The spill, however, appears to have been controlled fairly easily and no ill effects were suffered either by public water systems or by wildlife of the area. SARNIA was lightered by BAY TRANSPORT and by April 19th was alongside the pier at Imperial's Ashbridge's Bay terminal at Toronto. It is believed that the ship will be taken to the yard of Canadian Vickers at Montreal for repairs.
ENGLISH RIVER was to be ready for delivery about the middle of April after her conversion to a cement carrier at Port Arthur Shipyards but as of this writing she had not appeared on Lake Ontario. CEMENTKARRIER, however, has long since begun her 1974 season. Depending on how things go after the new addition to the fleet is commissioned, this just might be the last year for CEMENTKARRIER. We hope not, though, because not only is CEMENTKARRIER a rather pretty ship herself and a familiar feature of Toronto harbour, but she is always kept in absolutely immaculate condition, a far cry from the normal state of maintenance in the C.S.L. fleet of which ENGLISH RIVER is a unit.
On March 30th, the tugs LAUREN CASTLE and JOHN M. SELVICK (ex JOHN ROEN III) went to the aid of the Huron Cement steamer S. T. CRAPO which was disabled in Northern Lake Michigan, the intention being to take CRAPO to Sturgeon Bay for repairs. Trouble was encountered and the towline caught LAUREN CASTLE, pulling her over on her beam ends. Fortunately the line snapped and the tug righted herself, but in the process two crewmen were lost overboard. One was the 23-year old son of the tug's captain, but the other was one Melvin William Selvick, age 18, who not only was the son of the tug's owner but was also the person for whom the cement barge MEL WILLIAM SELVICK (the former steamer SAMUEL MITCHELL) was named.
One of our snoops observed SEGWUN up on the blocks at Pawlett's Marina in Gravenhurst on April 25th and reports that the job of replating the hull is progressing nicely. It is hoped that the ship will be back in the water on June 1st and thereafter work will start on the refurbishing of the wooden upperworks. The Muskoka lakes steamer is a veteran of 1887 and last operated in 1958, being used as a museum at Gravenhurst since. It is hoped that she will be put into service again once the current maintenance work is completed. The work is being financed as a historical project of the Ontario Roadbuilders' Association.
Current word on the future of the C.G.T. passenger liner FRANCE is at least more encouraging than other reports of the last few months. The ship's deficits had been covered by French government subsidy in other years but government officials took exception to the large payouts they had to make to keep the liner running and for a while it looked as if she would be taken out of service in April. It now seems that her operation is assured at least until the end of the year, but what the future has in store in the long run is anybody's guess.
Another passenger ship in the news is the long-familiar HOMERIC of Home Lines. Laid up at Genoa after a serious galley fire occurring last July on a cruise from New York, she was originally to have been repaired but in November was sold for scrapping and in December sailed under her own power to Taiwan. HOMERIC dated from 1931 and was originally the Matson Line's MARIPOSA. An extremely handsome ship, she will be missed and, although your editor had been aboard this ship on a number of occasions, we are glad to have been able to see her shortly after the fire, just before she was taken to Genoa.
Yet another well known liner has made the trip to the scrappers and this time it is P & O's ORSOVA which sailed from Southampton to Kaohsiung in December. Though she was not a particularly handsome ship, the passing of ORSOVA is regrettable in that she was only nineteen years old at the time of her sale. It appears that her end came about as a result of her trading places with CANBERRA which was the vessel P & O had earlier intended to drop from active service.
Even more regrettable yet is the fact that by now Taiwan cutting torches will have attacked the "Darling of the Dutch," the Holland America Line veteran NIEW AMSTERDAM which made her final revenue voyage from Port Everglades on December 7th. She lay idle for a short period upon her return from her farewell cruise and when no other purchasers came forward she was sold for demolition and left for Taiwan under her own power.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.