Effective December 28th, 1983, the Upper Lakes Shipping fleet adopted a new corporate name, one that is designed to reflect the company's present international operations. As of that date, all of the firm's employees became employees of ULS International Inc., Toronto, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. Three associated firms, namely Port Weller Dry Docks, Canal Contractors, and Les Elevateurs de Trois-Rivieres, are now divisional operations of ULS International Inc. The name change is not likely to be accompanied by any basic changes in the operations of the fleet's vessels.
The purchase of the eight-vessel fleet of the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. by Groupe Desgagnes Inc. has been confirmed, and it appears that, contrary to earlier speculation, Desgagnes has no intention of selling off any of the ships to other lake operators. In fact, several of the officials that were associated with the boats under Q & 0 ownership have also gone over to Desgagnes to assist in the operation of the ships, and in particular the larger lakers with which Desgagnes has not had previous experience. Present plans call for the operation of at least seven of the vessels in 1984, and it has even been suggested that one ship (probably THOROLD) might be used part-time in the Arctic during mid-Summer. We would expect that, if any of the ships might not run, it would be LAC STE-ANNE, which spent 1983 in idleness at Hamilton. In order for her to operate, she would need to be fitted with a sewage system as well as firedoors in her accommodations, and we also understand that she has boiler problems. It had been anticipated that all of the Q & O boats would be given new names, but Desgagnes is hopeful of obtaining some of the old Q & 0 contracts, and particularly the Chicago newsprint trade; if those contracts are secured, it seems likely that at least some of the vessels will retain their old names in deference to the interests of the Ontario Paper Company. Meanwhile, by mid-February, all six of the Q & 0 ships wintering at Toronto were flying Desgagnes houseflags.
With the announcement of the Q & O purchase by Groupe Desgagnes has come renewed hope for the port of Wallaceburg, Ontario. The two companies which have been loading grain out of the port for shipment via the Chenal Ecarte-Sydenham River waterway, had virtually despaired of being able to ship by water again when it became apparent that Q & 0 was going out of business. In the interim, however, Desgagnes has decided to keep FRANQUELIN and NEW YORK NEWS in lake service, and would be prepared to have them service the two Wallaceburg grain companies if suitable arrangements can be made.
Meanwhile, press reports have cast additional light on the operations of the Desgagnes fleet, which now consists of fifteen vessels. It seems that Desgagnes intends to add its ships to a pool of vessels owned by other Quebec-owned companies, with all of the boats being operated by Navigation Sonamar Inc., Quebec City. Desgagnes currently holds a 44 percent interest in Sonamar, and 25 percent each is held by Logistec Corp., Montreal, and by the Quebec government. Joining Desgagnes and the four-ship Logistec fleet under the Sonamar houseflag would be the two boats now owned by Boreal Navigation, Ste-Foy, P.Q. The purpose of the pool would seem to be to provide a ready-made fleet to carry Quebec government cargoes (the liquor board has been mentioned prominently) and to give St. Lawrence River industries a shipping alternative to the established lake companies. The arrangement would likely receive considerable "tangible support" from the Quebec authorities. Sonamar already has two multi-year Quebec government contracts to transport cargoes of salt from the Magdalen Islands.
In the January issue, we reported that Misener Transportation had arranged to charter LAKE NIPIGON, (a) TEMPLE BAR (77), from Nipigon Transport Ltd. in 1984. Since that announcement was made, there has been much speculation concerning the new name that would be chosen for the ship. With Halco's OTTERCLIFFE HALL chartered by Misener in 1983 and renamed (b) ROYALTON (II), it was hoped that LAKE NIPIGON would also be given one of the old Mathews-Misener names. We are pleased to report that this is, indeed, the case, and that LAKE NIPIGON will become (c) LAKETON (II) when she enters Misener service. The motorship will have to go on drydock for a pre-charter inspection this spring, and thus her first trip of 1984 will likely be made under her old name. She was to have wintered at Thunder Bay for drydocking during the off-season, but she was caught by the December freeze and was forced to winter at Hamilton. Her new name commemorates the 1903-built steamer LAKETON (I), (a) SAXONA (17), which served the Mathews Steamship Company Ltd. from 1917 until 1933, and the various Misener companies from 1933 until 1965.
As most of our readers will be aware, the 1984 navigation season marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Special ceremonies will be held to commemorate the occasion. The Misener Transportation bulk carrier RALPH MISENER has been chosen to be the lead ship down the Seaway when it opens, although this is hardly surprising in that she spent the winter frozen in just above Lock Eight in the Welland Canal at Port Colborne, and she will have to move out of the way before any of the other vessels can pass through. RALPH MISENER will have her paint spruced up for the ceremonies, and she will also have painted on her the Seaway's special anniversary insignia. (Can it really be that twenty-five years have passed since the new Seaway opened and so many of our old familiar canallers were taken out of service? How time flies...)
In the February issue, we mentioned briefly that there was a possibility that the venerable Buffalo excursion steamer CANADIANA might be rescued from her resting place at Ashtabula, and restored. The Buffalo-based group that is pursuing this ambitious project is called Friends Of The CANADIANA but, contrary to our earlier report, they do not wish simply to restore the ship as a static display. Instead, they are hoping to have her rebuilt to such an extent that she might eventually be put back in service, perhaps even on her old run from Buffalo to the amusement park at Crystal Beach, Ontario. The group would like to have the restoration work done at Port Colborne if the necessary funds can be raised. The supporters of the ship realize that the project could take up to a decade to come to fruition but, we think, rather underestimate the cost of the work. While we would dearly love to see the handsome old CANADIANA restored, we believe that her present, greatly-deteriorated condition is such that the cost of any reconstruction would be completely prohibitive.
The Chemical Valley Emergency Control Organization, a group made up of industries, police and fire departments, and various government branches on both sides of the St. Clair River in the Sarnia - Port Huron area, has been negotiating with the Canadian National Railways in an effort to obtain a fireboat for the area. The Organization's plan is to have the C.N.R. standby river carferry barge SCOTIA II made available in the event of emergency; it is hoped that governments involved will assist by providing funds for alterations to SCOTIA II's deck so that, in the event of emergency, up to six firetrucks could be driven aboard. SCOTIA II is not regularly used in ferry service (ST. CLAIR is the normal ferry barge used by C.N.) and she could thus be available, if necessary, to transport firefighting apparatus to emergency scenes on either side of the river.
By the latter part of January, work on the dismantling of SYLVANIA by Triad Salvage at Ashtabula was well in hand. She had been cut down significantly from the stack aft, with much of the machinery removed. Although a portion of the boilerhouse remained, the hull forward of that had been cut by the width of two plates for a considerable distance. With the forward end of the ship intact, and half of the unloading boom still in place, this created an intolerable strain on the cut-down portion of the hull, and SYLVANIA broke in two just forward of the boilerhouse, her forward end taking on a noticeable list to starboard. The scrapping operations continue.
The mid-February thaw which rescued the Great Lakes area from the severe cold that it experienced during December and January, brought serious flooding problems to the low-lying regions of Ontario near Lake St. Clair. Both the Sydenham and Thames Rivers were choked with heavy ice when the run-off came, and flooding endangered many communities. The Chatham area appears to have suffered the worst damage. The Malcolm Marine tug BARBARA ANN was put into service breaking ice in the Sydenham River to lessen flooding in the Dresden and Wallaceburg areas, while the Great Lakes Marine Contracting tugs ATOMIC and VAC battled the ice at the mouth of the Thames on Lake St. Clair in order to alleviate flooding in the Thames River watershed region. Photos of ATOMIC at work appeared prominently in the various media.
Although P & H Shipping Division of Parrish & Heimbecker Ltd. is anticipating a relatively good season in 1984, and is planning to operate five of its vessels (BEECHGLEN, BIRCHGLEN, CEDARGLEN, OAKGLEN and WILLOWGLEN), it has recently finalized the sale of its three oldest vessels for scrapping during 1984 at Port Maitland, Ontario. Sold for dismantling are FERNGLEN, (a) WILLIAM A. AMBERG (32), (b) ALBERT E. HEEKIN (55), (c) SILVER BAY (75), (d) JUDITH M. PIERSON (82), which was built in 1917 at Lorain by the American Shipbuilding Company (Hull 723); ELMGLEN, (a) SHENANGO (58), (b) B. W. DRUCKENMILLER (64), (c) A. T. LAWSON (76), (d) GEORGE G. HENDERSON (79), (e) HOWARD F. ANDREWS (82), built in 1909 at Ecorse by the Great Lakes Engineering Works (Hull 82); and PINEGLEN, (a) SAMUEL MATHER (III)(25), (b) PATHFINDER (II)(64), (c) GODERICH (II)(80), (d) SOO RIVER TRADER (82), which was constructed in 1906 at Wyandotte by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company (Hull 165). None of these ships operated during 1983, all of them remaining idle at Toronto (ELMGLEN having been towed over from Humberstone early in 1983). All of them have been stripped of certain pieces of equipment, and ELMGLEN has even lost the P & H emblems from her stack (she was the only one of the trio ever to have been fitted with the company's crest). It is said that one of the steamers will be towed up to Port Maitland during April, one more in May, and the third during June, although it is not yet known in which order the tows will be made. ELMGLEN is currently lying along the face of Pier 27, foot of Yonge Street, while PINEGLEN and FERNGLEN are on the south wall of the Leslie Street slip, just off the turning basin. We are indeed sorry to see these vessels sold for scrapping, as they are three of the oldest ships in the Canadian lake fleet and, at the same time, are amongst the most handsome. While we regret their passing at this time, we must also acknowledge, however, that all three would probably have been dismantled some years ago had it not been for the reprieve granted them in the fleet of the now-defunct Soo River Company.
The restored Muskoka Lakes passenger steamer SEGWUN (whose 1984 schedule we printed in the February issue) was the early-February victim of damage occasioned by the pressure of ice in the area of her winter berth at the Gravenhurst town dock. The 97-year-old steamboat took on considerable water, and assumed a nasty list before efforts could be made to pump her out. Some four feet of water had accumulated in her hull, but inspection determined that no serious damage had been done except for the creation of a mess in her hold. It was also considered necessary that SEGWUN be moved back along the wharf in order that her bow would not strike the bottom when the authorities lowered the water level in Lake Muskoka, a move required to accommodate the considerable snow run-off that was anticipated. The damage suffer red by SEGWUN will in no way interfere with the ambitious and interesting excursion season which the Muskoka Lakes Navigation and Hotel Company Ltd. has planned for the vessel during the summer of 1984.
Agents for the barge WITTRANSPORT II, (a) NORTHCLIFFE HALL (I)(6l), (b) CAPE TRANSPORT (78), which has recently aroused the ire of Kingston residents because she has been lying, partially sunk, alongside the city's LaSalle Causeway, are appealing a conviction and fine levied for violations of the city property standards bylaw. The city resorted to use of the bylaw in an effort to get rid of the ship, which some feel creates an eyesore, and others feel should be preserved and restored as an example of the now-departed canallers that for so long served Kingston. The vessel's owners intend eventually to take her to the Caribbean for use as a water tanker. Despite paying the fine and appealing the judgment, the Oceanic Operations Corp. of Oyster Bay, N.Y., has indicated that the boat will probably be removed by May 1st, and that she may be taken to Chicago, presumably on the first leg of a trip to the Gulf of Mexico via the Illinois Waterway and Mississippi River. It had earlier been intended to squeeze the ship out of the lakes via the small locks of the New York State Barge Canal, and it was for that purpose that her forward cabins, stack and masts had been removed at Toronto back in December of 1977.
It was announced in early February that the United States Steel Corporation had made tentative arrangements to purchase the National Steel Corporation for the sum of $575 million in cash and stock. U.S. Steel is the number one steel producer in the U.S.A., while National ranks seventh amongst the steel companies. The deal, which was announced but one day following disclosure of the fact that U.S. Steel had suffered record losses in 1983, is really worth almost $700 million, for U.S. Steel has agreed to forgive a National debt, and will allow National to retain the proceeds from the sale to its employees of the mill at Weirton, West Virginia (on the Ohio River). The purchase gives U.S. Steel three additional mills, as well as coal and iron ore holdings, and helps to explain why the "Steel Trust" recently announced the closure of several superannuated mills of its own. The sale has yet to be approved either by the U.S. Justice Department or by the shareholders of National Intergroup Inc., the owner of National Steel. It is not yet clear what effects the deal might have on either the U.S.S. Great Lakes Fleet Inc., or the National fleet, of which the Hanna Mining Company has been agent, although it seems evident that the merger of the fleets would spell the end of any hope of further service for the smaller vessels in either fleet. In fact, the only "Hanna" ships that would likely find a place in the new fleet would be GEORGE A. STINSON and GEORGE M. HUMPHREY; Hanna had intended to have the latter vessel converted to a self-unloader, and it will be interesting to see whether that conversion will now go ahead.
Approval of the U.S. Steel/National Steel merger will not likely be given by the U.S. Justice Department until it has determined the results of its move to block, under anti-trust laws, a planned merger between the LTV Corporation and the Republic Steel Corporation. LTV is a Dallas conglomerate that owns the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company, third-largest steelmaker in the U.S., while Republic is the country's fourth-largest producer, and the merger would create America's second-largest steel company. The Justice Department has vowed to stop the sale and will file suit unless the companies desist from their intent. It would seem, therefore, that the authorities will step in to avoid the merger of any of the large steelmakers. We thus tend to discount those rumours that have been circulating this winter concerning a possible merger between the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and the Inland Steel Company.
Officials in Toledo are attempting to formulate plans which might eventually see the old American Shipbuilding Company yard on the East Toledo riverfront reactivated as a repair facility. AmShip had previously insisted that any purchaser of the defunct shipyard agree not to use it for shipbuilding or any related purpose, but the company, presumably knowing that such a demand would make the yard even more difficult to sell than it might otherwise be, has indicated a willingness to negotiate the point. The Toledo - Lucas County Port Authority would very much like to see the shipyard reactivated, but no concrete proposals for is reopening and operation have yet appeared.
We understand that the Westdale Shipping Ltd. 1925-built self-unloading steamer SILVERDALE, (a) GLENEAGLES (78), which is in winter quarters at Windsor, was "plastered" in mid-February with papers relating to a $636,000 suit begun by the Bank of Bermuda as a result of nonpayment of an outstanding debt. We have no confirmation at present whether the 1915-built ERINDALE, (a) W. F. WHITE (76), has also been served at her lay-up berth at Humberstone, although we believe that to be the case. We would not like to see either of these handsome vessels, the last two boats in the once-large Westdale fleet, forced out of operation, and it is to be hoped that a solution to the problems can be found.
In our last issue, we mentioned that The Boat Company's veteran steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM went back into regular service across the Straits of Mackinac on December 16, 1983. We have since received a report to the effect that the CHIEF did not actually make her first crossing until December 20th. Be all this as it may, at least the 73-year-old coal-burner is once again operating.
Meanwhile, with its CHIEF WAWATAM problems apparently solved, at least for the moment, the State of Michigan is trying to dispose of its interest in the ITB (Integrated Tug-Barge) System, the ill-conceived Ontonagon project into which the state, incredibly, sank some $41 million. The project was to produce one powerful tug and four covered barges, hut the work was stopped with the un-named tug and but one barge only about 85 percent completed. Their builder, the Upper Peninsula Shipbuilding Company, is in bankruptcy, and the old Ann Arbor carferry line across Lake Michigan, for which the ITB was designed, was closed down on April 26, 1982. The shipyard is for sale and so are the tug and barge, with the state hoping to get itself out of the debacle before any further money goes down the drain. (Present cost figures for completion of the tug and all four barges run to $96 million!) Late in December, 1983, the tug took on water and developed a nasty list, this being the second time that such an event has occurred since the UPSCO yard was idled. The Ontonagon Fire Department pumped out the tug's hull, and the state, fearful of the tug coming to harm before it could be sold, sent in an engineering team to find out what had happened. One inexperienced firm (the Superior Shipbuilding Company of Neenah, Wisconsin) has expressed interest in the shipyard, but no potential buyers have come forward for the ITB. It has been suggested that the Michigan Northern Railway (owner of the Boat Company) might wish to acquire the ITB for summer use at the Straits of Mackinac and hold CHIEF WAWATAM for operation only during winter months, when ice would force the ITB out of service. However, the ITB will not fit standard carferry slips or aprons, and her use at the Straits would thus require the construction of all new facilities at both ports, while still retaining the old ones for the CHIEF, and we would have to imagine that the cost of such construction would make such a project improbable in the extreme. Meanwhile, the state is still stuck with a huge white elephant...
The 1983-84 winter season has been a tough one for any vessels attempting to operate in winter service. No major ships tried to run straight through the winter, but several barges have been in service. While tending some of those barges in the Detroit River area, four of the tugs owned by the Gaelic Tug Boat Company of Detroit have suffered damage in the ice. Sustaining varying degrees of damage have been DONEGAL, KINSALE, TIPPERARY and WILLIAM A. WHITNEY. Any tankers (such as Cleveland Tankers' GEMINI and JUPITER) that attempted winter runs were soon laid up as a result of the problems that they encountered in the ice.
After an absence of many years, cruise service will return to the upper lakes during 1984. The American-Canadian Line will operate the Blount-built CARIBBEAN PRINCE, a new 76-passenger motorship, on a route between Detroit and Owen Sound, via Port Huron, Bay City, Alpena, Cheboygan and Mackinac Island. There will be six twelve-day trips, commencing June 17, but passengers will only make the trip one way; one group will sail upbound, and when the ship reaches Owen Sound, they will be carried back to Detroit by bus, and another group will go aboard for the downbound sailing. The ship will feature all the usual amenities with the exception of a bar; she'll be very strictly B.Y.O.B.! Interested parties might contact the line at P.O. Box 368, Warren, Rhode Island 02885, U.S.A., phone (401) 245-1350, or their own travel agent.
Twin City Drydock and Marine, of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, has been awarded a contract to build two 65-foot passenger boats for the Automobile Club of Michigan, which will operate them from Gibralter, [sic] Michigan, to Bob-Lo Island, the amusement park which was acquired in 1983 by the Auto Club. The boats, which will have two decks and be fitted with "riverboat-style" (!!) stacks, will cost some $170,000 each. To be ready for service in May, they will be built inside the old Bunny Bread warehouse, adjacent to the Twin City drydock, and will be launched from wheeled carriages. The advent of these new boats will in no way affect the traditional service of COLUMBIA and STE. CLAIRE from Detroit to Bob-Lo Island.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.