One of the things that made 1982 such a sad year for shipping observers was the demise of two Canadian lake fleets. The Soo River Company and Johnstone Shipping Ltd. were forced out of business, primarily as a result of adverse economic conditions. We had hoped that there would be no repetition of that scene in 1983, but just as the year was drawing to a close, along came word that yet another Canadian fleet would soon cease to operate.
On December 16, 1983, the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. announced that it would discontinue operations at the end of the year. The company, a subsidiary of the Ontario Paper Company Ltd., has been hit hard by the depressed economy and apparently has been unable to foresee any substantial improvement in the future. The firm has been vocal in its criticism of Welland Canal lockage fees which strike hardest at smaller vessels such as several of those in the Q & 0 fleet.
The company incorporated on January 22, 1914. as the Ontario Transportation and Pulp Company, and adopted the Q & O name in 1933. The fleet at first operated only canallers, but acquired its first upper laker, HERON BAY (I), in 1939. An interesting assortment of boats has been operated by the firm during its seven decades of service. Originally they hauled pulpwood and newsprint for Ontario Paper, and carried other cargoes as available, but in recent years, all the company's pulp and paper have been carried by road or rail transport, and the ships have stayed mainly in the grain trade.
At the beginning of 1983. the fleet was composed of nine vessels. The motorship BAIE COMEAU II, (a) MONTE ALMANZOR (77), was sold Panamanian during the autumn, so at the time of cessation of operations, the fleet is made up of the following ships:
CHICAGO TRIBUNE (II), (a) THOROLD (I)(33). C.160889. Motorship built 1930 by Earle's Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd., Hull, England, Hull 676. Lengthened 1962. 314.2 x 43.6 x 21.1, 3595 Gross, 2791 Net. Built for fleet.
FRANQUELIN (II), (a) GRIFFON (67). C.198009. Motorship built 1955 by Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd., Port Weller, Hull 18. Lengthened and deepened i960. 343.0 x 43.6 x 23.7, 3542 Gross, 2613 Net. Purchased 1967.
GOLDEN HIND, (a) IMPERIAL WOODBEND (54). C.193679. Steamer built 1952 by Collingwood Shipyards Ltd., Collingwood, Hull 147. Converted from tanker 1954. 601.6 x 68.2 x 31.0, 12304 Gross, 8532 Net. Purchased 1972.
LAC STE-ANNE, (a) EDWARD J. BERWIND (63), (b) MATTHEW ANDREWS (III)(74), (c) BLANCHE HINDMAN (III)(79). C.327382. Steamer built 1924 by Great Lakes Ei gineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan, Hull 247. 595.6 x 62.0 x 27.7, 9532 Gross, 6402 Net. Purchased 1978.
NEW YORK NEWS (III), (a) TECUMSEH (67). C.198025. Motorship built 1955-56 by Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd., Port Weller, Hull 19. Lengthened and deepened 1960. 343.3 x 43.6 x 23.7. 3536 Gross, 2607 Net. Purchased 1967.
Of these eight remaining vessels, LAC STE-ANNE did not operate during 1983 and remains idle at Hamilton. THOROLD is in winter quarters at Thunder Bay, and the rest of the fleet is laid up at Toronto with storage grain cargoes.
Robert W. Savage, Q & O president, stated in his announcement of the firm's demise that discussions were being held with a group of employees who had expressed interest in acquiring some of the ships for further operation, and that other interested buyers were also being sought.
While we would like to see the boats remain in service, and particularly the smaller ships that are required to serve the port of Wallaceburg, and also the Bathurst Street, Toronto, elevator of Canada Malting Ltd., we doubt that the Q & O employees could muster enough capital to launch such an operation and keep it going during difficult times. It will be interesting to see if any prospective purchasers come forward.
We sincerely regret the passing of this venerable and highly-respected Canadian fleet, but we can well understand why it is ceasing operations. If our legislators in Ottawa were aware of what is happening around our country, then perhaps the end of Q & O might be recognized for what it is, namely the ending of service to a number of companies that require specialty transportation and who might themselves curtail operations as a result, with the possibility of increased unemployment all around. And somebody in Ottawa just might realize the inequities in the Seaway toll system that charges the same lockage fees to CHICAGO TRIBUNE as to a 730-foot laker.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.