A merger of the Medusa Corporation of Cleveland and the Oglebay Norton Company has been approved in principle by the shareholders of the two firms. The transaction, valued at approximately $114 million, will see Oglebay Norton shareholders receive 1.25 common shares of Medusa for each of their O.N. Co. shares. The net result of the deal as far as boatwatchers are concerned will be that Medusa's bulk cement carrier MEDUSA CHALLENGER as well as the idle C. H. McCULLOUGH JR. will be in the same house as the fleet of the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton. As far as can presently be ascertained, the fleets will operate separately and there is unlikely to be any outwardly visible sign of the merger.
An interesting sidelight to this merger lies in the fact that Medusa Corp. directors turned down an offer of purchase which was made by Moore McCormack Resources Inc. The proposed $97 million deal would have seen Medusa's lake shipping operations and those of the Interlake Steamship Company (a Moore McCormack subsidiary) brought under the same management.
Hull 63 of Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd., the bulk carrier ARCTIC being built for a consortium of Canadian operators who will use her on the summer run to northern waters, was floated from the graving dock "shelf" on December 11th and moored along the face of the drydock wharf. The move was accomplished with the assistance of the tugs JAMES E. McGRATH and G. W. ROGERS, the latter being brought from Toronto for the occasion. ARCTIC is a most unusual vessel in that she is specifically designed for operation in heavy arctic ice and has a bow constructed accordingly. Strangely enough, she does not have a square stern but rather a more conventionally rounded one. On her deck are mounted extremely large and powerful cranes for cargo handling. She will be ready for operation about May 1978.
Port Weller will be a busy place for a number of years to come thanks to orders placed with the shipyard by its parent firm, Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. It was announced some months ago that the yard had been given a contract for yet another maximum-sized self-unloader similar to CANADIAN OLYMPIC, this boat to be constructed as Hull 64 and to be ready for delivery in May 1979. On November 30 it was announced that the yard's Hull 65 will be another vessel of the same type for Upper Lakes, this hull to be delivered in December 1979. The total cost of the two new boats will approximate $66 million.
CARTIERCLIFFE HALL, originally designed to be operative this autumn, saw only limited service due to mechanical problems and the lateness of the season. She ventured only as far as Prescott during December and there she is to spend the winter. MONTCLIFFE HALL and STEELCLIFFE HALL should both begin operation during 1978.
After many months of deliberation, the City of Detroit has awarded to Peterson Builders of Sturgeon Bay a contract for a 77-foot aluminum-hulled, highspeed fireboat. The vessel, to be capable of operation in heavy ice conditions, will draw less than six feet of water. Her pumps will be able to discharge 9,700 gallons of water per minute and she will also be equipped for the use of foam for petroleum fires. This boat will, of course, be the long-planned replacement for the since-retired steamer JOHN KENDALL.
The tanker FUEL MARKETER (II) which at present is laid up in the turning basin at Toronto, has been sold by Shell Canada Ltd. to Ship Repairs and Supplies Ltd., Toronto, a firm which in the past has operated three tankers, namely GULF SENTINEL, CONGAR (I) and CONGAR (II) under its affiliate, Johnstone Shipping Ltd. We understand that the firm purchased FUEL MARKETER with the idea of operating her but that once she was examined, she was found to be in no better condition than CONGAR (II) which earlier in 1977 was sold for scrapping due to the large number of dollars needed to put her into operating condition (she needed extensive boiler repairs). Ship Repairs will either scrap FUEL MARKETER themselves or else send her to Hamilton for cutting up at Strathearne Terminals. Meanwhile, however, it is said that the company has been in touch with Marine Industries in connection with the possible purchase of the idle CEDARBRANCH (II). If Ship Repairs and/or Johnstone Shipping acquires this motortanker, it is likely that she will be renamed (b) CONGAR (III).
In the November issue of this journal, we reported that the American Steamship Company had sold its self-unloading steamer CONSUMERS POWER (III) to the Erie Sand Steamship Company and that the vessel would operate for the remainder of the 1977 season under charter to BoCo. We have since learned that although Erie and BoCo had held discussions on the subject of such a sale, the deal was never finalized due to the inability to reach agreement on price. Hence CONSUMERS POWER is still a unit of the American Steamship Company and presumably will continue to operate as such. CONSUMERS POWER dates back to 1927 and sailed previously as (a) GEORGE M. HUMPHREY (I)(45), (b) CAPTAIN JOHN ROEN (48) and (c) ADAM E. CORNELIUS (II)(58). She is most famous for her June 15, 1943 sinking in the Straits of Mackinac after a collision with the tinstacker D. M. CLEMSON.
The sandsucker C. W. CADWELL has recently been moved from the foot of Bathhurst Street in Toronto to a berth in the turning basin alongside FUEL MARKETER. The 66-year-old former steamer has not operated for several years despite the installation of used diesel engines and it seems that she is unlikely to see any further use. The odd part about the move is that it was instigated by the Harbourfront Park authorities who allegedly complained that the diminutive CADWELL was blocking the view of the bay from its Bathurst Quay area! This is the sort of tripe which the taxpaying public has been fed by Harbourfront ever since the park was formed a few years ago by the federal government as an election plum. If Harbourfront were really interested in making waterfront facilities available to the public, we should have expected it to obtain the CADWELL (whose owners would love to dispose of the boat and have announced that they would like to see her used as a museum facility of some kind) and open her for public inspection. This would have made a real contribution to the public enjoyment of the harbour. Instead, the public has watched its tax dollars being flushed away on the construction of an unnecessary and useless drawbridge across the slip between Piers 4 and 5. The mind boggles at the ability of government officials to confuse their priorities.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority has awarded to E. S. Fox Ltd. of Welland a $2.1 million contract for the construction of the first two prototype "shunters" for use on the Welland Canal. The high-powered platforms will be ready for use in the spring and will be used for testing only for the first two years. Present plans are for the shunters to be tried out on an old laker (PETER ROBERTSON, perhaps?) in 1978 and on a maximum-sized vessel in 1979. Further shunters will be ordered at the end of the test period only if it is then believed that their use will effectively reduce passage time for large ships in the canal. Whereas it was earlier believed that the shunters would be self-controlled, it now appears that plans are for them to be controlled from the bridge of the vessel to which assistance is given.
December 2, 1977 was the date of the official opening of Ideal Ship Repairs Ltd. of St. Catharines, a company formed earlier in the year to provide an alternative to other ship repairers already established in the Welland Canal area. Ideal is owned jointly by the Hindman Transportation Company Ltd., Westdale Shipping Ltd. and the Soo River Company Ltd. and it is probable that most of its work will involve the servicing of ships operated by these companies.
Contrary to reports appearing elsewhere recently, Westdale Shipping's self-unloader FERNDALE (II) will not be retired at this time and, in fact, is scheduled to undergo considerable repair work during the winter months. FERNDALE is laid up at Toronto at present. However, back in our October issue, we did mention that Westdale had given thought to the retirement of one of its veteran self-unloaders. The boat to which we were referring was the 67-year-old LEADALE and we are still hearing comments to the effect that she may not operate in 1978. LEADALE is laid up at Toronto with a storage cargo of soya beans for Victory Mills.
Meanwhile, Westdale Shipping Ltd. has sold its idle PINEDALE to Pitts Engineering Construction Ltd., Toronto, the sale being concluded during November. We understand that Pitts intends to use PINEDALE as a breakwater in connection with a construction contract in the Lake Huron area. Incidentally, observers will have noticed that the dust-catching apparatus which was installed on PINEDALE several years ago for the cement trade has since been removed from the retired steamer and placed aboard FERNDALE.
At last, details of the sale of the cruise ship LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER are coming to light but, as a result of subsequent events, the matter is now of academic interest only. The sale of the vessel at public auction took place at Montreal on November 14 at which time a Liberian firm, whose name has variously been reported as either Throughfun Corp. or Thoroughfun Corp. of Monrovia, acquired the boat for $370,000 from the creditors of Midwest Cruises Inc. of Panama. The Liberian firm was, in fact, a cover for two Canadian companies, namely Mount Royal Marine Repairs Ltd. and Clipper Ship Supply Ltd., both of Montreal, who jointly purchased the vessel. It was in this way that she came by her new name of ROYAL CLIPPER. The steamer was refitted and a crew was brought to Canada for her. She was scheduled to depart Montreal on December 8 for Spain where she was to have embarked passengers for a Bahamas cruise.
However, in the wee small hours of the morning of December 6th, a fire broke out in the engineroom of ROYAL CLIPPER. Fed by a fresh load of bunker oil, the fire was unsuccessfully fought by the crew who were shortly evacuated in favour of Montreal municipal firemen. The latter poured water on the fire for some five hours but by the time the fire was brought under control, it had spread throughout the ship. At about 8:30 a.m., ROYAL CLIPPER rolled inward toward the pier and sank.
The day following the fire, an explosion of some sort occurred within the burned-out hulk and ROYAL CLIPPER slid over even further so that she lay almost on her beam ends. The remains of the vessel will have to be removed as they present an obstruction where they lie, but the future appears to hold nothing but the scrapyard for the ship as damage is so severe that repair would seem to be out of the question. It is expected that McAllister Towing and Salvage Ltd. will likely get the salvage contract.
Verreault Navigation Inc. of Les Mechins, Quebec, has been carrying out dredging operations at Thunder Bay using its dredge I.V. NO. 4, the self-propelled spoil scows I.V. NO. 9 and I.V. NO. 14, and the tug DENISE V. (formerly the famous JAMES WHALEN). Verreault has, however, come under severe criticism from many sources. The criticism centres around dredging methods used, the fact that non-union crews are being employed on the project, and the argument that the job should have been awarded to one of the local dredging contractors. The four Verreault boats passed up the Welland Canal in convoy en route to Thunder Bay on October 23rd.
The big J. P. Porter Company Ltd. suction dredge SHUNIAH, which has not been active for several years, was put to work during the month of December on the dredging of the lower harbour at Port Weller. The 125-foot SHUNIAH dates back to 1910 when she was built at Toronto by the Polson Iron Works Ltd.
The tanker currently being built off-lakes for Cleveland Tankers Inc. will be christened GEMINI and will thus continue the fleet's policy of naming its boats after "heavenly bodies". We are still led to believe that GEMINI will be more traditional in design and appearance than the two powered barges, SATURN and JUPITER, but we are not sure exactly what this might mean. Most certainly, she will not be a MERCURY, PLEIADES, COMET or ROCKET.
The clearing of salt water ships from the lakes in December was a particularly frustrating job for the Seaway Authority this time around. The St. Lawrence River section of the Seaway was scheduled to close December 15 but in greater numbers than ever before, salties continued to pour into the lakes until the last moment, knowing full well that they had no chance of getting out by the announced closing date. With the water temperature hovering around the freezing point and with much ice already forming in the channels, S.L.S.A. officials had a number of anxious moments. The rush of salties trying to clear the lakes left pilots much in demand and some boats were forced to lie at anchor for many days, particularly at Port Colborne, waiting for their turn to get a pilot. The lower section of the system was finally closed on December 27 as the last downbound salty was cleared.
One salt water vessel that did not clear the Seaway and, in fact, had no intention of doing so, was the sand carrier ESPERANCE III which was headed for Toledo. At the time of this writing, we are not aware of whether she has been bought or chartered by a lake company, but it seems obvious that she will be used on Lake Erie.
The bunkering barge IMPERIAL VERDUN, held in reserve as spare boat at Montreal for several seasons due to a decrease in the port's bunkers requirements, was back in service briefly late in the 1977 season. Instead of using her own outboard power units, however, she was towed around the harbour by a Techno Marine tug. Imperial Oil Ltd. normally uses only IMPERIAL LACHINE in its Montreal bunkering service.
During the past month or so, we have been hearing many rumours concerning the proposed merger of two Canadian lake shipping companies but as yet there has been no formal announcement from either of the firms alleged to be involved. Several sources have identified one of the companies as the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. but for the present, our readers will just have to guess at the identity of the other organization, as we have been doing ourselves ever since word of the "deal" was first heard.
Meanwhile, we have been pleased to hear that Q & O appears to have shelved plans to retire HERON BAY, PIC RIVER and BLACK RIVER. The rather elderly vessels, the former dating back to 1906 and the latter two to 1896, were the subjects of many rumours earlier in the 1977 season. We understand that considerable difficulty has been encountered recently with the boilers of SHELTER BAY (II) and when we heard that she was to winter at Prescott instead of her usual berth at Toronto, we were fearful for her future. Our fears were somewhat allayed, however, when SHELTER BAY arrived back in Toronto on December 31st and laid up light in the channel just outside the turning basin. It is possible that work may be done on her during the winter months. SHELTER BAY's boilers came to her in 1966 from BAYTON and were far from new at the time of their installation.
Some of our readers may not have noticed the change that has come over the Q & O motorship THOROLD (IV) since her acquisition by the Canadian fleet. When operating earlier as GOSFORTH and, indeed, up until this year as THOROLD, the vessel carried two rather heavy masts, each equipped with cargo booms, which sprouted from deckhouses. Although the houses still remain, the masts and booms have since disappeared and a new foremast has been fitted at the break of the forecastle. The change makes THOROLD look somewhat more the part of the bulk carrier she now is.
Whereas THOROLD has lost her deck equipment, N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd. have gone in the other direction with their motorship SOODOC (II). This carrier, a 1976 product of Collingwood Shipyards Ltd., was built without cargo-handling equipment on deck but whilst overseas during the summer of 1977 was fitted with rather large cranes mounted on pedestals. SOODOC will apparently spend much of her time carrying assorted cargoes on salt water and, in fact, is engaged in deep sea service this winter, having left the lakes in mid-December with a cargo of steel consigned to Vancouver.
The month of December saw, at long last, an end of the labour problems in the northern U.S. iron ore mines and, as the various companies concluded settlement with the respective locals of the United Steelworkers of America, the many ore carriers idled since the outset of the strike in August began to fit out and re-enter service. While the season was too late for all of the boats to be reactivated, most of the American operators brought out the majority of their vessels and many of them have plans to run through January and into February if possible in order to fulfill tonnage obligations to the mills whose stockpiles have dropped to a dangerously low level. In order to facilitate the movement of late-operating boats, the U.S. Corps of Engineers has agreed to keep both the Poe and MacArthur Locks in operation at the Soo.
A few Canadian fleets are expected to keep running through the winter as well. One of those which has announced such intentions is Imperial Oil Ltd. which will keep tankers running out of Sarnia as long as possible.
In an effort to aid winter navigation, the U.S. Coast Guard once again has brought to the lakes the large icebreaker WESTWIND which, with MACKINAW and several other units, should be able to keep channels passably navigable. WESTWIND, however, ran aground at the mouth of the St. Mary's River near DeTour on December 13 and holed herself rather badly. Quite naturally, the accident did not receive much publicity and at the present we are not aware of the extent of damage nor where WESTWIND was taken for repairs.
One of the vessels which was reactivated following settlement of the iron ore miners' strike was MAXINE, formerly THE INTERNATIONAL. Her new owner, the E.D.C. Holding Company, had rechristened her on October 18 but she was not in operation at the time due to the labour unrest. Continued operation of this handsome steamer seems to be assured in that her owner has planned considerable modernization work on the plant of the Wisconsin Steel Works which was purchased earlier in the year from International Harvester in the same deal which saw THE INTERNATIONAL change houseflags.
In these days of late-season navigation, few are the lake boat crews who manage to make it home to spend Christmas with their families. Those aboard several Canadian boats spent a particularly dismal Christmas, however, as a result of a labour dispute involving the operators of the Burlington Beach Road lift bridge over the entrance to Hamilton harbour. On Wednesday, December 21st, the bridge operators walked off the job in a salary disagreement with the federal Treasury Board. Supplies could only be taken out to the boats, most of which had coal cargoes for the steel mills, by a small launch which could squeeze under the lowered bridge but which had to cease its runs when inclement weather set in. After many days riding at anchor, the vessels were dispersed to other ports, the possibility of settlement of the dispute appearing to be remote. RIMOUSKI was allowed to enter the harbour at Hamilton because she was taking water as a result of an earlier grounding near Alexandria Bay, New York, and two other boats also were permitted to pass the bridge. LAKE NIPIGON and another vessel were diverted to Prescott while TARANTAU, MANITOULIN and JEAN PARISIEN were sent to Port Colborne for lay-up. LOUIS R. DESMARAIS was sent to Toronto where she unloaded her coal and then also headed for Port Colborne. GEORGE G. HENDERSON, ISLAND TRANSPORT, NORTHERN VENTURE and CANADIAN CENTURY, the latter two with coal cargoes, laid up in Toronto. With ship traffic to Hamilton's mills at a standstill, the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority decided that there was no point in trying to keep the Welland Canal open and accordingly the canal was shut down prior to the end of the year.
Meanwhile, with anchored vessels sent elsewhere and the canal closed, there is no ship traffic pressing to use the Hamilton harbour entrance and the striking bridge operators appear to have lost the upper hand in their wage negotiations. A protracted strike through the winter months will cause no further inconvenience than has already been caused to Stelco and Dofasco who must make do with smaller supplies of coal than expected.
Increased tolls to be levied against vessels using the Welland and St. Lawrence canals will be introduced in staggered fashion during 1978, 1979 and 1980. The toll increases have met with extremely vocal opposition from many sources and the staggering of the increases is designed to permit all parties to evaluate the impact of the tolls as the program continues. Undoubtedly, this will allow the S.L.S.A. to back out of the increases gracefully should the gloomy predictions of the opposition be proven to have merit.
Meanwhile, CAPE TRANSPORT, (a) NORTHCLIFFE HALL (I)(59), was stripped of most of her superstructure while lying along the north wall of Toronto's turning basin. This work was done by Herb Fraser and Associates and was designed to allow the ship to pass down the Erie Canal, it being considered too dangerous to attempt to take her down the east coast at such a late time in the season. CAPE TRANSPORT, all structures above the level of the top of her after cabin gone as well as everything (including the rail) from atop the forecastle, cleared Toronto in early December under tow of the tug PRINCESS NO. 1. In view of the fact that she might not be moved down the Erie Canal until the spring, it was thought that she might well winter at one of the American ports on Lake Ontario such as Sodus or Oswego. Another strange part of the affair is that we have heard that she also was to be renamed WIT TRANSPORT! It is entirely possible that she may be differentiated from her sistership by means of a numeral added to her name, if indeed this is to be her new name. The CAPE TRANSPORT, unlike her sister, did not have her new name painted on her bows when she departed Canadian waters for the last time.
It is rumoured that the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority may be contemplating the disposal of GATE LIFTER NO. 1, the sawmill-stacked gatelifter which has served the fourth Welland Canal ever since it was opened. This unusually-shaped craft, 90.1 feet in length and all of 66.2 feet wide, was built in 1930 at Collingwood. Most of her time has been spent in idleness at the maintenance yard slip on the east side of lower Port Weller harbour, but she has proved to be a very useful boat when accident or maintenance work has required the movement of canal lock gates. It is understood that the S.L.S.A. feels that it could make do with other units and retire the GATE LIFTER NO. 1 whose lifting machinery is, of course, steam powered.
A few months ago, the lakes were buzzing with the suggestion that S. & E. Shipping Corporation (Kinsman Lines) was negotiating for the purchase of U.S. Steel's RICHARD V. LINDABURY. Nothing came of the rumours at that time but we understand that the matter has not completely died.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.