For the past several years, the future of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's straight-deck steamer JOHNSTOWN (II) has been very much in doubt, for she last operated in 1981 and has been idle at Erie, Pennsylvania, ever since. JOHNSTOWN was built in 1952 as Hull 4504 of the Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard Inc. at Sparrows Point, Maryland, 611.0 x 70.2 x 33.7, 9164 Gross and 5608 Net. She was built as the first of three sisterships, the others being Bethlehem's SPARROWS POINT (Hull 4505) and Interlake's ELTON HOYT 2nd (Hull 4512). JOHNSTOWN was brought to the lakes via the Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway. Then in 1958 she was sent to the South Chicago yard of the American Shipbuilding Company, where she was lengthened to 683.0 feet, 10317 Gross and 5947 Net. Unlike her two sisters, JOHNSTOWN remained a straight-decker and never received self-unloading equipment. As a result, she has latterly been of little use to the Bethlehem fleet, and the financial climate has not warranted the cost of conversion. Recently, Bethlehem Steel applied for permission from the U.S. Maritime Administration to sell JOHNSTOWN to Marine Salvage Ltd., Port Colborne, for scrapping, and it is likely that the sale will soon receive official approval. The demise of JOHNSTOWN is unfortunate indeed, but in no manner could it be considered to be unexpected.
ATLANTIC SUPERIOR, the self-unloading ocean-laker which was built for Canada Steamship Lines in 1982 by Collingwood Shipyards, has spent much time on salt water since her completion, and has been in deep-sea trade during the past winter. The motorship will likely be spending even more time on salt water in the future, for it appears to be the intention of C.S.L. to transfer her to foreign registry, presumably under the ownership of an affiliate or subsidiary. ATLANTIC SUPERIOR is then to be placed in the coal trade from Rotterdam to Fines, Portugal. There is a major coal-fired hydro generating facility at Fines, but the port itself is so underdeveloped that only self-unloaders can deliver the coal required by the plant. C.S.L. has signed a three-year contract to provide U.S. coal for the plant. The coal will be brought from Hampton Roads to the Canso Strait, and also down the Seaway to Sept-Iles, and will then be loaded into salties owned by Cobelfret N/V, Belgium, and chartered to C.S.L. for the crossing to Holland. Then, Norwegian ships of the Gearbulk and Klavnes fleets, along with ATLANTIC SUPERIOR, will take the coal down to Portugal. C.S.L. is hoping that this contract will lead to further expansion of its deep-sea self-unloader business. It is thought that HON. PAUL MARTIN may follow ATLANTIC SUPERIOR into the Portuguese coal trade, and the possibility exists that C.S.L. might soon order additional ocean-lakers and might even decide to proceed with the construction of its deferred Hull 228 at Collingwood Shipyards.
In an address presented to the International Shipmasters' Association in St. Catharines on February 15, J. D. Leitch, chairman of ULS International Inc., discussed problems currently besetting the Canadian lake shipping industry. One of Leitch's comments was that "some shipyards and owners", in attempting to retain their competitive edge, had built dual-purpose ocean-lakers, but that such ships had proved too costly to operate. In particular, he said "I doubt if you will see any more of these vessels outside the Great Lakes". This comment was certainly a bit unusual, considering the fact that the ULS self-unloading ocean-laker CANADIAN PIONEER was on salt water, running grain from U.S. Gulf ports to Mexico, even as Leitch made his remarks. Should we dare to mention MAZAHUA or THORNHILL (II)? Or the fact that two ULS self-unloaders will spend the summer of 1985 ballasting the caisson legs of a Norwegian offshore oil rig with Swedish iron ore? Or the success that the C.S.L. and Misener fleets have enjoyed in marketing their ocean-lakers on salt water? Mr. Leitch may since have found cause to reconsider his comments...
The 33-year-old Canadian Coast Guard steam icebreaker d'IBERVILLE, which was sold during 1984 to interests in the Cayman Islands (for whatever reasons they might have), was still moored at Sorel in early March. At that time, there was no sign of the ship being renamed. It will indeed be interesting to see what use is eventually made of this well-known icebreaker. The last time we were in the Caribbean, we saw very little ice...
For those who have been wondering why the pospects [sic] for the Canadian grain trade are so bad in 1985. when the market for export grain seems active, we have the following explanation. Export markets are still holding good, but drought conditions experienced on the Canadian Prairies in 1984 so reduced the grain crop that there simply is not sufficient grain available to export, and much of what is available will be shipped from west coast ports instead of through the lakes to the St. Lawrence River. The Canadian Wheat Board has estimated that the record 30.7 million tonnes of grain exported from the 1983 crop in late 1983 and early 1984, will drop to only 22 million tonnes from the 1984 crop, and that includes those shipments that were made last autumn. It is no wonder that grain-handling employment has dropped and that eight Thunder Bay elevators are closed. May 1985 weather conditions on the prairies be more favourable to the grain crop...
Efforts to reinstitute Lake Michigan ferry service between Muskegon, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are still underway. The route was abandoned in 1971, but groups on both sides of the lake would like to see it restored, and are hoping that this could be accomplished if the $6 million cost were shared three ways by the State of Michigan (in grants and low-cost loans), and by parties in Milwaukee and Muskegon. It is proposed that service begin in 1986, using the now-idle British Columbia government ferry SECHELT [sic] QUEEN, (a) CHINOOK (55), (b) CHINOOK II (63). This combination auto and passenger ferry, 318.0 x 65.5 x 13.0, 4979 Gross and 3255 Net, was built in 1947 at Seattle by Todd Shipyards Corporation. If she comes to Lake Michigan, she would be renamed (d) MUSKEGON CLIPPER, and her auto capacity would be increased from 80 to 144, with her passenger capacity remaining in the 350 -400 range. Fares for the service would likely be $14.50 per passenger and $30.50 per auto, one way. Meanwhile, Ludington area residents are greatly concerned, as such a ferry route would pose a threat to the struggling service operated for the last two seasons by the Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Company, which now owns the former Chessie ferries CITY OF MIDLAND 4l, BADGER and SPARTAN. It would be good to see the Muskegon route operating, but it would be unfortunate indeed if its advent ruined the efforts of the Ludington folk who have worked so hard to preserve the continuity of the traditional Lake Michigan carferry service.
Efforts to preserve the former Grand Trunk (and later Ann Arbor) carferry CITY OF MILWAUKEE at Frankfort, Michigan, have been fraught with difficulties. The City of Frankfort acquired the vessel in preparation for making into a museum this, the last operating example of an unrebuilt Logan-designed carferry. However, certain local residents disapproved of the ferry being at Frankfort, and more recently there has been a dispute over where she is to be moored. Such problems do not bode well for the future of the steamer.
It continues to be apparent that there is virtually no hope that the venerable steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM will ever again operate on her old route across the Straits of Mackinac. Facing subsidy cutbacks and decreased rail traffic at the crossing, the CHIEF received the coup de grace late in 1984 when part of the elderly St. Ignace dock collapsed. State of Michigan studies indicate that the repair cost would be prohibitive. Meanwhile, the Mackinaw City Village Council has been studying the possibility of acquiring CHIEF WAWATAM and preserving her (she is already designated as a state historic site), although plans are only in the formative stages. The village apparently has $100,000 in unspent taxes available for the project if the ferry is available, and if other assistance can be enlisted to ensure her preservation.
The first passage up the St. Mary's River for the 1985 navigation season came on the first weekend of March, when the tug AMOCO MICHIGAN and barge AMOCO GREAT LAKES went as far as the lower harbour at Sault Ste. Marie to unload at the old Carbide Dock. Prior to the arrival of the tug and barge, the local press carried warnings of their coming, which were addressed to "All Snowmobilers, Ice Fishermen and Islanders".
It has been confirmed by the builders that PATERSON, the new straight-deck motorship being built at Collingwood Shipyards for N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., Thunder Bay, will be launched on Thursday, April 18th. The launch is expected to be well attended by observers, as PATERSON is the last major lake hull for which Collingwood presently has a contract and, except for the breaker ordered by the Canadian Coast Guard, prospects for further launches at Collingwood in the foreseeable future are questionable at best. PATERSON is scheduled to be completed by the shipyard before the end of June.
Last summer, we reported that Dome Petroleum Ltd. was attempting to peddle its subsidiary, Davie Shipbuilding Ltd., Lauzon, Quebec, to the Versatile Corporation of Vancouver, the firm that operates, amongst other shipyard facilities, the Vickers yard at Montreal. The deal between the financially-troubled Dome and the would-be purchaser did not close on July 31, 1984, as anticipated, and in fact it was not until mid-March, 1985, that press reports confirmed that Versatile had actually taken possession of the Davie yard, which henceforth will be known as Versatile Davie Inc. Spokesmen for Versatile have declined to be specific concerning the purchase price of the shipyard, referring to "rather complicated considerations" involved in the deal.
In several recent issues, we have mentioned the scrapping of the former Westdale Shipping Ltd. self-unloader ERINDALE at Port Colborne. We now hear that, with the after end of the ship cut away, work on the project has been halted. We are informed that a stop work order was issued by environmental authorities after the shipbreakers unleashed a spill of the steamer's bunker oil, and failed to take prescribed remedial measures. At the present time, it is not clear when or if work will be permitted to resume. Meanwhile, the cut-down, sunken forward end of NORDALE is still lying at the same site, no effort having been made to remove it before work began on the dismantling of ERINDALE late in the autumn of 1984.
It was announced late in March that the Federal Court of Canada had rendered its decision in the litigation arising out of the June 2, 1981, collision between the steam sidewheel ferry and excursion vessel TRILLIUM and the floating restaurant NORMAC. As expected, the court held that TRILLIUM was responsible for the collision, and condemned her owner, Metro Toronto, to pay damages resulting from the impact. However, the court refused to award to John Letnik, NORMAC's owner, damages in respect of the sinking of the restaurant two weeks after the collision, on the grounds that the sinking was not caused by the collision. Letnik has said that he will appeal the decision.
Readers will recall our previous reports on the infamous Valleyfield Bridge Blockade of the late autumn of 1984, which is now the subject of litigation in respect of losses sustained by lake fleets whose ships were trapped in the Seaway. There was much confusion of traffic when the canals reopened on December 10, and several accidents took place. One of those was the collision between the salties FEDERAL DANUBE and BEOGRAD on Lake St. Louis on December 11th. The Fednav ship was able to resume her voyage to Toronto, but BEOGRAD was found to be taking on water after the mishap, and she was deliberately run aground to save her. Temporary repairs were put in hand, but she was not able to leave the Seaway until December 23. She unloaded at Contrecoeur, and on December 31 she went on the Versatile Vickers drydock at Montreal. The repairs to BEOGRAD were not completed until February 10, 1985, at which time she sailed for overseas, but bad luck still dogged her, in the form of a severe ice jam which played havoc with shipping on the St. Lawrence near Sorel. BEOGRAD was forced to anchor off Lanoraie, upstream from Sorel, to await the reopening of the river to traffic.
Alongside the old Algoma Steel plant site on Port Colborne's east wharf, work has been progressing on the removal of the machinery from the former Halco tanker UNGAVA TRANSPORT, which is now owned by Upper Lakes Shipping. At last report, her stern had been cut down in preparation for lifting out the engine. There is no confirmation yet on whether, as proposed, UNGAVA. TRANSPORT will become a bunkering barge for ULS and Canada Steamship Lines.
Early in March, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority announced that it had agreed to purchase for $500,000 the American Shipbuilding Company's abandoned shipyard on the Maumee River at Toledo. The site adjoins several other properties that the authority has acquired (or is attempting to buy), which will be leased out for industrial use. The Port Authority is hoping that portions of the yard, including its two drydocks, can be utilized for ship repair or construction, although there are no immediate plans for any such development.
The Canadian salty MESANGE, which is no stranger to the Seaway, and which served in 1982 as a training ship for pilots, has been sold to Logistec Navigation, and has been renamed LUCIEN PAQUIN. The 10034-ton motorship was built in 1969 at Gothenburg, Sweden, and her recent sale took place as a result of a Federal Court Marshal's seizure. She wintered at Quebec City but she fitted out for her new owner and arrived at Montreal on March 7. The following day, she went on the drydock at the Versatile Vickers shipyard.
During March of 1985, a notice in the press advertised for sale the restaurant ship LA MARJOLAINE, which was described as "anchored in Quebec City", "rich in history", "completely renovated", and "unique". We do not know whether a buyer was found. LA MARJOLAINE, (a) LA. VERENDRYE, is 127 feet long, 346 Gross and 197 Net, and was built at Lauzon in 1914. Her last active service was on the Ile-aux-Grues route on the St. Lawrence River for La Societe des Traversiers du Quebec, but she was replaced in 1981 by the new GRUE-DES-ILES. In 1982, LA MARJOLAINE was purchased by interests who made her over into a restaurant and lounge, and moored her in the pool below Cote Ste-Catherine Lock in the Seaway. The enterprise was not successful, and the ship now faces a questionable future. The photo that appeared with the advertisement showed LA MARJOLAINE with neither pilothouse nor stack.
Fit-out plans of the USS Great Lakes Fleet Inc. call for the once-large operator to run only ten ships in 1985. At present, the firm intends to commision EDWIN H. GOTT, EDGAR B. SPEER, ARTHUR M. ANDERSON, CASON J. CALLAWAY, PHILIP R. CLARKE, and the "Bradley" self-unloaders JOHN G. MUNSON, CALCITE II, MYRON C. TAYLOR, IRVIN L. CLYMER and GEORGE A. SLOAN. The SLOAN, which is being dieselized at Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, is expected to be ready for service in May, and we shall eagerly await sight of the repowered "Maritimer" to see what kind of job the Fraser yard has done. In addition to receiving her new propulsion machinery, the SLOAN is being fitted with the tailshaft and controllable-pitch propeller which were salvaged when the motorship RAYMOND H. REISS was scrapped at Ramey's Bend by Marine Salvage Ltd. in 1981. (As far as we know, the diesel engine taken out of the REISS at that time is still begging for a buyer.)
In the Mid-Summer 1984 issue, we reported the delivery voyage of the coal-topping barge THOROUGHBRED TOPPER, which was built as Hull 734 of the Bay Shipbuilding Corp. The 550-foot barge was ordered by the Lambert's Point Barge Company Inc., a subsidiary of the Norfolk Southern Corporation, for service in the Delaware Bay area. On her maiden trip, THOROUGHBRED TOPPER went to Duluth for a grain cargo, and her motive power was the tug FIVE BROTHERS. The TOPPER did not go into her intended service of topping off large salties, for such service has been prevented, at least for the present, by litigation commenced by local environmentalists. The TOPPER, meanwhile, was put into service on the Gulf of Mexico. On one trip, she cleared New Orleans on October 19, with FIVE BROTHERS providing the power. The following morning, the tug inexplicably began to take water, and she sank in 530 fathoms of water in the Gulf. The crew was safely taken aboard the barge, which then was towed back to New Orleans by the tug GULF RAVEN.
The Canadian Coast Guard has embarked on a programme of renaming its search and rescue boats which, heretofore, have carried numerical names only. As a result, for instance, CG 126, which is stationed at Goderich, is to become CAPE HURD, while CG 108, at Tobermory, will be renamed TOBERMORY.
The late winter of 1984-85 was one that the residents of southern and southwestern Ontario will not soon forget. Heavy snowfalls during February, plus a vicious early March blizzard, combined to cause a very heavy runoff during mid-March thaws, and flooding became a serious problem. As usual, much of the trouble was caused by ice choking the local rivers, and once again tugs were sent in to break ice and keep things flowing smoothly. As of February 24th, ATOMIC was on duty at the Lake St. Clair mouth of the Thames River, working for the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority in an effort to lessen flooding in the Chatham area. As of the same date, GLENADA and BARBARA ANN were in the Sydenham River and Chenal Ecarte, working to reduce high water problems in the Wallaceburg and Dresden areas, the tugs being employed by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.