A serious accident occurred at Sept Iles, Quebec, in the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 14th, and resulted in the sinking of the tug POINTE MARGUERITE and the loss of two of her crew. The tug, owned by Eastern Canada Towing Ltd. of Halifax, was assisting the Italian bulk carrier CIELO BIANCO when she was struck by the new Algoma Central Marine self-unloader ALGOBAY. The tug was crushed between the two ships and immediately sank in 180 feet of water. Her master was rescued from the bitterly cold water but two crewmen were unable to get away from the tug before she foundered. Damage to CIELO BIANCO was minimal but ALGOBAY sustained a gash in her special ice-breaking bow and will be forced to go on drydock for repairs. The results of the investigation into the cause of the accident are not yet known, but it is thought that ALGOBAY may have suffered a mechanical failure immediately prior to the collision. ALGOBAY was completed earlier this year by Collingwood Shipyards and had been placed in operation during the month of October.
In recent issues of this publication, we have speculated on the possibility of the retirement of the tanker IMPERIAL COLLINGWOOD at the close of the 1978 navigation season. Our prognostication has proven to be right on the mark, for Imperial Oil Limited has now made a formal announcement to the effect that the steamer will be withdrawn from service in December and that a buyer for her will be sought. Although twice lengthened since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, IMPERIAL COLLINGWOOD and her sister, IMPERIAL LONDON, were built at Collingwood in 1947 and 1948, respectively, to canal dimensions. Her retirement removes from the Imperial fleet the last of its canallers and also leaves the company with but one tanker in regular lake service, IMPERIAL SARNIA, whose future is also in considerable doubt. It is believed that the COLLINGWOOD will be replaced by chartered tonnage.
Although by mid-November the former IMPERIAL LONDON had not yet left her berth at the Marine Salvage Ltd. scrapyard in Ramey's Bend on the Welland Canal, she had been renamed (b) TEGUCIGALPA by her Honduran owners and appeared to be just about ready for her new duties in the Caribbean and South American waters. This steam tanker must surely have been given one of the longest fit-outs ever accorded a laker after a sale!
The Branch Lines Ltd. tanker EDOUARD SIMARD, built at Sorel in 1961 and the second oldest ship currently active in the fleet, is reportedly in very bad condition due to the corrosion of her tanks. To rectify this situation, the tanker will be drydocked over the winter at the Davie shipyard at Lauzon and there she will be fitted with an entirely new hull section to replace the damaged tanks. The rebuilding will result in an eighteen-foot increase in the length of the 399-foot motorship. Branch Lines Ltd. has always been an independent carrier (that is, one not directly associated with any particular oil company) and its vessels are frequently chartered out to the other tanker fleets. In many cases, they have had to carry all sorts of nasty substances which fleets such as Imperial Oil would never dream of putting in their own boats for fear of what they might do to their tanks. This trade seems to have taken its toll on EDOUARD SIMARD which is certainly not what one could call an old ship, but her planned revitalization will mean that she will have many more years of operation ahead of her.
We understand that certain financial difficulties have been associated with the purchase of Branch Lines Ltd. by the Davie shipbuilding interests from the control of Marine Industries Ltd. These problems resulted in the sale earlier this year of both CEDARBRANCH and WILLOWBRANCH, and they have now prompted the sale of yet another Branch Lines tanker. ARSENE SIMARD is still operating for the Branch Lines fleet, but she has been sold to the Hall Corporation and will be delivered to Halco in drydock at Montreal on December 15th. ARSENE SIMARD, built in 1972 at Sorel, will be renamed by her new owner, although no decision on the new name has yet been reached.
The operations of Secola Shipping Ltd., an affiliate of Ship Repairs and Supplies Ltd., Toronto, have not proven to be sufficiently successful as to merit the continuation of the service. The tanker SECOLA, (a) CEDARBRANCH (II), which the company purchased from Branch Lines Ltd. early this spring, is to be withdrawn from operation shortly. It has not yet been decided whether she will be taken to an east coast port where a buyer might be found for her, or whether she will be laid up at Toronto and eventually scrapped there. Whatever the disposition of the ship, this development is likely to spell the end for the shipping ventures of the Toronto operators; they had previously run GULF SENTINEL, CONGAR (I) and CONGAR (II) under the name of Johnstone Shipping Ltd. CEDARBRANCH was built for Branch Lines at Sorel in 1951 by Marine Industries Ltd. and was lengthened at the same yard in 1965. She was, of course, originally a canaller and was a sistership of WILLOWBRANCH. CEDARBRANCH had operated for Branch Lines through the 1977 season.
It was earlier reported that the passenger and auto ferry VACATIONLAND was seen during the autumn at the Canadian Vickers shipyard at Montreal. It was assumed by many who received this report, but had not seen the ship, that this was VACATIONLAND, (b) JACK DALTON, (c) PERE NOUVEL, (d) SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, on which the State of Michigan has a purchase option for the proposed ferry route between DeTour Village and Meldrum Bay. In fact, the ship which was spotted at Montreal was the Prince Edward Island ferry VACATIONLAND which was built in 1971 at Port Weller. There have been no recent developments in respect of the possible return to the lakes of the other VACATIONLAND which has been laid up on the British Columbia coast since she was taken out of service on December 7, 1976.
Present indications are that the "laker conversion" of ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR will be done at Port Weller. It is not known exactly when the work will be started but we would anticipate that the new forebody for the ship will be laid down in the graving dock as soon as the second of the two new self-unloaders being built at the yard for Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. has been moved to the fit-out berth. It would thus seem unlikely that the conversion could be completed until sometime in 1980. Meanwhile, the conversion of ST. LAWRENCE PROSPECTOR is still scheduled for the coming winter at St. John, New Brunswick. We have also learned that, once the conversions have been done, the two ships will be renamed CANADIAN NAVIGATOR and CANADIAN PROSPECTOR.
The new U.S. Steel self-unloader EDWIN H. GOTT was christened in ceremonies held at Sturgeon Bay on October 31st. It is expected that the GOTT will be completed in time for her to enter service late this year.
The first vessel of Toronto's lay-up fleet for the coming winter arrived in port during the early morning hours of November 10th. The boat is the Misener Transportation Ltd. steam bulk carrier GEORGE M. CARL which tied up alongside harbour section 292 near the foot of Sherbourne Street. The CARL has a storage cargo, presumably soya beans for Victory Mills. The early lay-up of the ship does not indicate a scarcity of grain cargoes but would appear to reflect certain difficulties which operators have encountered in having their vessels unloaded at eastern ports. The CARL made the news this past summer when she paid an unexpected visit to the Bay Shipbuilding yard at Sturgeon Bay where she was incarcerated from August 15 to the 24th for rudder repairs. She was towed to Sturgeon Bay from Thunder Bay by the McLean tug WILFRED M. COHEN.
The former Westdale Shipping self-unloader LEADALE has now left the lakes en route to the South American port where she will be dismantled. With a cargo of scrap metal in her holds, she passed down the St. Lawrence Seaway during the night of November 12-13 in tow of the tugs ROBERT H. and TECHNO VENTURE. She was bound for Sorel where, presumably, a deep sea tug took over the tow. It is interesting to note that, although superannuated lakers have been towed overseas for scrapping on a regular basis since the early sixties, LEADALE is the first to head directly for South America.
At approximately the same time that LEADALE was sold to Mexican interests back in the spring, a sale which was not completed, her name was linked to that of the idle Halco tanker BAFFIN TRANSPORT which had been lying at Sorel for several years and which was allegedly also sold to Mexicans. It is a coincidence that, on November 11th, BAFFIN TRANSPORT passed Quebec City outbound for the sea in tow of OCEAN CROWN and YVON SIMARD. At the present time, we have no knowledge of the circumstances of her departure from Canadian waters, but we can be certain that she was bound for a scrapyard somewhere .
The idle Paterson canaller LAWRENDOC (II) was recently placed back in service after having been drydocked at Collingwood Shipyards. She was immediately sent eastwards with a cargo of barley bound for Prince Edward Island. Neither LAWRENDOC, nor her sister MONDOC (III), had been fitted out this spring. We have heard certain rumours to the effect that both ships may be sold by Paterson to another Canadian lake vessel operator but there has been no official announcement of any such development as yet.
The equipment of the salt water motorship PHOTINIA was sold at auction at Sturgeon Bay on October 7 and 8 by Selvick Marine Towing. The "open house" which was held aboard the salty was designed to sell off the ship's contents and it is likely that the hull itself will be dismantled.
The new U. S. Coast Guard tug KATMAI BAY, one of five similar vessels being built at Tacoma, Washington, is expected to be in service before the close of the 1978 navigation season. She will be based at the Soo and will replace the aging tug NAUGATUCK. The second of the new tugs will be named BRISTOL BAY but she will not make her debut in the lakes until sometime in 1979.
The ice-breaking motorship ARCTIC, which was completed at Port Weller this spring and subsequently placed in service between European ports and Baffin Island, has hardly had an auspicious first year of service. First, there was her maiden voyage argument with a bridge at Toledo, an accident which sent her back to Port Weller for the mending of a nasty gash in her hull. And now she is back at Port Weller once again, this time to have a 10-metre hole in her starboard bow fixed. The accident occurred late in October while ARCTIC was outward bound for Antwerp with a cargo of lead-zinc concentrate from the Nanisivik mine on Baffin Island. She put into Marmorilik, Greenland, where her trim was adjusted to compensate for the water she had taken on, and then sailed for Quebec City where she was lightered of part of her cargo. She was then taken up to Port Weller for repair. The damage was apparently caused by an impact with a submerged ice floe. It isanticipated that repairs to ARCTIC can be expedited so that she can leave the lakes before the Seaway closes, despite the fact that the cost of repair has been estimated to be $450,000.
In our November issue, we mentioned that the veteran Kinsman steamer PAUL L. TIETJEN had been sold to Triad Salvage Inc. of Ashtabula for scrapping. The steamer was towed from the Frog Pond at Toledo at noon on October 10 by the G-tug OHIO and the following day arrived at Ashtabula, where she was docked by the harbour tugs IDAHO and KANSAS. The TIETJEN will be broken up as soon as the torches have disposed of the last bits and pieces of CHICAGO TRADER, but we understand that her Skinner Unaflow engine will be removed intact so that it may be placed in some other as-yet-unidentified vessel.
Last month, we also reported that the United States Steel Corporation's bulk carrier WILLIAM A. McGONAGLE had been sold to Kinsman and would be placed in service this autumn. That report came to us via a very reliable source, but it has been proven to have been a bit premature. Nevertheless, negotiations for the purchase of the McGONAGLE are continuing and it is hoped that there will be definite news in this regard shortly.
We also mentioned in November that the aging KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, (a) NORMAN B. REAM, was nearing the end of her active career. We were, at that time, just dropping a small hint to the effect that the ENTERPRISE might well be on her last legs, but there is now more to be said on the subject. It is rumoured that the steamer, which is reportedly in poor condition due to her advanced age (73 years), has been offered by Kinsman to the Cargill Grain Company and has tentatively been accepted by the latter. If the deal should actually be completed, the ENTERPRISE would be delivered to her purchaser at Chicago, where she would be stripped of her superstructure. She would then be towed down the Illinois Waterway and the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she would be used as a floating grain elevator. This would be a most interesting development if it were to come to fruition but, quite honestly, we would rather see KINSMAN ENTERPRISE remain in service on the Great Lakes where she belongs!
The steamer KINSMAN VOYAGER, which had been lying at Hamburg and used as a storage barge since 1975, was towed to Bilbao, Spain, for scrapping during the summer of 1978. Her companion during the years at Hamburg was another former Kinsman vessel, JAMES E. FERRIS, which made the tow across the Atlantic Ocean with her. There is no word as to whether the FERRIS has also gone to the breaker's yard.
Over the past few years, we have watched with interest as the veteran carferry CHIEF WAWATAM, which operates the route between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, has been granted several reprieves from a retirement which seemed imminent due to her age and the extensive refurbishing which she allegedly requires. Nevertheless, her age is not the only force operating against the old ferry. She has been very busy during 1978 because of the success of the fledgling Michigan Northern Railroad but there is a distinct possibility that this situation may soon change.
During the autumn of 1977, a five percent rate increase was levied on U.S. and Canadian lumber which was shipped eastwards by rail. All of the American railroads went along with this increase except the Michigan Northern which held to the old rate. Because of the line's holdout against the increase and the fact that the Michigan Northern carried much of the lumber over its rails, the other lines were forced to accept the lower rate. An embargo against movement of such lumber by other railroads was forbidden by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Recently, however, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific announced that they considered themselves to be outside the jurisdiction of the I.C.C. and that they would not accept freight which would be routed for any part of its journey over Michigan Northern rails. Canadian Pacific, of course, owns the Soo Line Railroad which connects with the Michigan Northern. The Council of Forest Industries of British Columbia has reluctantly agreed to go along with the position adopted by C.N. and C.P. and it would thus seem that, in the very near future, there may be a marked decrease in traffic on the Michigan Northern which, in its turn, would greatly reduce the number of cars transported by CHIEF WAWATAM across the Straits of Mackinac. Michigan Northern is unwilling to relent in its refusal to increase rates and, unless some settlement of the affair is reached, it may well be considered that the cost of keeping the CHIEF in service is not warranted. In that event, a cut-off of state subsidies would seem likely.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.