The Thunder Bay grain handlers' strike, tentatively settled on October 5 under threat of back-to-work legislation, was formally ended with a workers' vote on a new contract on October 9, and grain shipments from the Canadian Lakehead began immediately thereafter. During the first five days after the end of the five-week strike, a record one million tonnes of grain left Thunder Bay in forty ships, and the Canadian Wheat Board indicated to the press that it anticipated being able to ship all six million tonnes of grain that had backed up during the strike. The lake fleets had their boats ready for the resumption of grain movement and indeed reactivated for the rush several ships that would not otherwise have seen any service in 1986. Complicating factors, however, have arisen. Not only is the remaining portion of the season short, but the port of Quebec is still idled by a longshoremen's strike and, as a result, long delays have been encountered in unloading the lakers at other ports. It seems likely that this situation will continue, meaning that each ship will not be able to complete as many round trips in the remainder of the season as might otherwise have been expected.
Among the vessels put into service after the settlement of the grain strike were all of the Halco bulk carriers except LAWRENCECLIFFE HALL. As well, Algoma Central has its entire fleet in operation, including CAROL LAKE. This latter vessel had been idle at Hamilton since Carryore Ltd. laid her up in 1984, but she left Hamilton during the evening of October 7. proceeding to Toledo to load soybeans for the St. Lawrence. Strangely, C.S.L. reactivated its self-unloader TARANTAU for the grain trade, an unusual run for her.
ULS International Inc. decided to put its entire lake fleet into service (for the first time in many years), and CANADIAN HUNTER, which had been idle at Toronto for two years, departed for Toledo under her own power on October 13. The most surprising ULS reactivation has been that of SEAWAY QUEEN, which had been lying for four years at Toronto and had gone out of class. She was towed from Toronto on October 13 by the tug JAMES E. McGRATH, bound for Port Weller Dry Docks, and the assistance of the McKeil tug GLENSIDE was required due to unfavourable weather conditions. The QUEEN was given a full survey and inspection and, back in class, she was taken off the drydock on the morning of October 20. She sailed upbound that same afternoon but, above Lock 7 in the Welland Canal, she blew the superheater tubes in her boiler and had to be towed back to Port Weller. The shipyard had replacement parts available and completed repairs in a few days. SEAWAY QUEEN made her first departure from Thunder Bay since 1982 on October 27. To say that the return to service of this vessel is a costly undertaking would be an understatement of major proportions, and we wonder what the future will hold for the ship, considering that prevailing business conditions (the grain strike excepted) bode poorly for her continued operation.
Even more surprising, perhaps, than the reactivation of SEAWAY QUEEN is the decision by Misener Shipping Ltd. to place SCOTT MISENER back in class and operate her this autumn. The MISENER, one of the most handsome lakers built in relatively recent times, and a 1954 product of Port Weller Dry Docks, last operated in 1983 and has since been laid up at Hamilton. Of somewhat less than full Seaway dimensions and rather costly to operate, the steamer was thought by most observers to be destined for the scrapyard in the near future. Nevertheless, she departed Hamilton on October 20 in tow of GLENSIDE and STORMONT, and she was placed on the Port Weller dock late that evening for full survey and inspection. She was due to run "trials" on Lake Ontario on November 1st and was expected to be loading at Thunder Bay a few days later. The costly return to service of SCOTT MISENER should please all shipping enthusiasts, although by how much it will prolong the life of the boat is anyone's guess.
It is interesting to note that the Port Weller tug JAMES E. McGRATH, which towed SEAWAY QUEEN from Toronto, and also assisted the QUEEN and SCOTT MISENER on and off the drydock, also went onto the dock with both of those vessels. It seems that the McGRATH herself was in need of work and it was decided to do the repairs on the tug at the same time.
At long last, the break-up of the financially-troubled Halco fleet has begun. It was announced on October 30 that the six Halco tankers were being sold to a new firm, Enerchem Transport Inc., Montreal, which has been formed by Richard Carson (former Halco senior vice-president and general manager), together with George Iskandar (a Montreal petrochemical shipping agent and broker) and Tony Airey (a Montreal marine surveyor). As well, Carson has formed Navican Management Inc., which will manage the operation of the Halco bulk carriers for the Royal Bank of Canada, with the bank continuing to provide funds to run the bulk fleet until its eventual disposal. Halco will continue to operate its various subsidiaries, including Shelburne Marine Ltd., Prescott Machine and Welding Ltd., and Wincliffe Shipping Ltd. (a Winnipeg brokerage firm). It had long been anticipated that the profitable Halco tanker operations would be broken away from the money-losing bulker portion of the company as part of the eventual disposition of the once-prominent fleet.
In the October issue, we reported the purchase by the St. Lawrence Cement Company Inc. of a Saudi Arabian cement-carrying barge, which has been renamed CLARKSON CARRIER, and also the acquisition by Wakeham & Sons Ltd. of a tug to handle the barge. By October 22, the tug and barge had arrived at Montreal on their way to the lakes from the Middle East, and they should be in service later this autumn. Incidentally, we should note that the original rename reported for the big tug was in error. It has since been learned that her new name is not PETIT FOUR but rather PETITE FORTE.
On October 28 at 1640 hours, the tug CANADIAN VIKING passed Les Escoumins, outbound for the sea, with the former ULS lakers FRANK A. SHERMAN and RED WING in tow, having departed Lauzon earlier the same day. Unfortunately, we are not presently aware of their intended destination.
Last issue, we mentioned that one of the vessels which would be making her way to Port Colborne for scrapping in the near future is the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's steamer ARTHUR B. HOMER, which last operated in the autumn of 1980. It was confirmed on October 9th that U.S. MarAd approval is being requested for the sale of the HOMER to Port Colborne Marine Terminals Inc.
When GEORGE M. HUMPHREY and PAUL H. CARNAHAN departed Lauzon on September 2 in tandem tow behind the big Dutch tug SMIT-LLOYD 109 (assisted by LEONARD W.), they were supposedly bound for a Taiwan scrapyard via the Panama Canal. We have received no further reports on the progress of this extremely long (95 to 105 days) tow, and it will be interesting to see whether the two big lakers complete the voyage successfully.
A "Journal of Commerce" report dated 16th October indicates that U.S. MarAd has approved the sale by the USS Great Lakes Fleet Inc. of the 1943-built Maritime-class steamer SEWELL AVERY, (a) LANCASHIRE (43). The purchaser is identified as A. B. McLean Ltd. of Sault Ste. Marie, which reportedly will use the ship as a breakwall. This would seem to suggest that McLean is proceeding with the relocation of its sand and gravel business at a site on the upper section of the St. Mary's River, after many years of argument with the City of Sault Ste. Marie over those plans.
Also on October 16, "The Journal of Commerce" reported that MarAd had approved a resale of the steamers NO. 265808 (the former BENSON FORD) and NO. 266029 (the former WILLIAM CLAY FORD) which, as mentioned in our Mid-Summer issue, had been sold for scrapping by the Rouge Steel Company. The decision gives the Erwin Robinson Company, Detroit, permission to resell both vessels to Marine Salvage Ltd., Port Colborne, apparently for dismantling. NO. 266029 is too large to pass through the Seaway for an overseas tow, although she would fit through Lock 8 of the Welland Canal, and it would thus seem probable that she will be broken up at Ramey's Bend. Robinson had previously indicated that NO. 2658O8 would be scrapped overseas, and Marine Salvage may well be intending to send this ship to a foreign breaker's yard.
Canadian Shipbuilding & Engineering (1986) Ltd. is the new firm that was formed recently when ULS International Inc. and CSL Group Inc. joined forces in the operation of their shipyards. The major operating divisions of the company will be Port Weller Dry Docks, Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co., Canal Contractors, and Pictou Industries Ltd. (which operates shipyard facilities in Nova Scotia). Of course, one of the victims of the ULS/CSL shipyard merger was the Collingwood yard, which was closed during September after 103 years of operation. Canadian Shipbuilding apparently plans to bid in May on a submarine construction programme for the Canadian Navy and will seek a partner to join in the bid. Meanwhile, with no new construction ongoing, and with NORTHERN RANGER completed at Port Weller (she left the shipyard on October 10 to enter the Newfoundland - Labrador service), Port Weller Dry Docks has secured an $8,000,000 contract to refit the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker JOHN A. MacDONALD. The ship will arrive at Port Weller during December, and the work will be done over the winter months.
Meanwhile, reports indicate that Marine Industries has reached agreement in principle to acquire the eastern Canada operations of the Versatile Corp. of Vancouver, these being the Vickers shipyard at Montreal and the Davie yard at Lauzon. The purchase was to be approved by the shareholders of both firms on October 2k. Marine Industries indicates that there are no plans to close any of the shipyards involved, and that increased work will be sought for them. Canadian Shipbuilding, of course, will be their major opposition.
At Kingston, no work has yet begun on the conversion to condominium units of the old grain elevator property, apparently because of financial problems. The idle C.S.L. lakers METIS, HOCHELAGA, NIPIGON BAY and T. R. McLAGAN are still laid up beside the elevator and there seem to be no immediate plans to move them elsewhere. On Sunday, September 21, a fire broke out in a storage area on NIPIGON BAY; the blaze was extinguished before it could spread further, but considerable damage was occasioned to stored materials and to electrical equipment, and a recent estimate put the damage in excess of $200,000. On October 16, Kingston police arrested two juveniles and laid several charges against them in respect of the incident. It is unlikely that the fire will have any major effect on NIPIGON BAY's future, as it generally has been acknowledged that there is little chance of the steamer ever again operating in any event.
The former tinstacker JOHN HULST was one of the partially dismantled ships lying at the Thunder Bay scrapyard of Shearmet Recycling when the firm went out of business recently. Other crews were eventually brought in to finish scrapping the HULST and also SPRUCEGLEN, and it is now reported that the last remains of JOHN HULST were dismantled during the week of September 7th.
The Algoma Central self-unloader ALGOSOO left the Welland Dock on Ocober [sic] 6 for her first trip of the 1986 season. Readers will recall that ALGOSOO suffered serious damage in a fire which occurred on March 7 as she was undergoing maintenance at the west wall above Lock 8. On April 3rd, she was towed down to Welland, where Port Weller Dry Docks crews began making extensive repairs, which included the construction of an entire new aft deckhouse and considerable renewal of the unloading gear.
September was not a good month for commercial shipping on the Saginaw River. On September 19, the American Steamship Company's CHARLES E. WILSON damaged timber pilings protecting the infamous Zilwaukee drawbridge which carries I-75 over the river at Saginaw, and on the 22nd, both Columbia Transportation's WOLVERINE and American Steamship's BUFFALO also struck and damaged pilings at the bridge. To make matters worse, currents in the flood-swollen river carried Columbia's JOSEPH H. FRANTZ into wooden pilings at the Independence Avenue drawbridge at Bay City on September 24, grounding the ship in the process. As a result of these incidents, the U.S. Coast Guard restricted commercial traffic on the Saginaw River to daylight hours and required all ships to have tug escorts, these regulations to be in effect until at least October 1st.
C.C.G.S. CARIBOU ISLE, the new Canadian Coast Guard buoy tender which took up station at Sault Ste. Marie during the summer, was damaged in an incident which occurred on September 30. In company with the icebreaker SAMUEL RISLEY, CARIBOU ISLE was searching the waters of Lake Huron's North Channel, near Blind River, for a missing resident of the Serpent River Indian Reserve. The search was successful but, in the process, CARIBOU ISLE hit a rock, punctured her hull in three places, and began taking on water. A Mayday call was made and the ship was beached on Clara Island. With the RISLEY's assistance, temporary repairs were effected and both vessels sailed for Parry Sound, where CARIBOU ISLE received permanent repairs.
On August 7, the 52-foot tug RUTH B. and a 100-foot, 250-ton barge, both purchased by Capt. Ronald M. Blaha from the Busch Oceanographic Equipment Company and en route from Saginaw to Hampton Roads, Virginia, attempted to enter the Black Rock Canal at Buffalo. In the current, the tow missed the canal entrance and was swept against one of the Peace Bridge piers. The tug capsized, was washed downstream, and sank near Strawberry Island, while the barge wrapped itself around the bridge pier; the tow's crew was rescued. The barge's predicament attracted much attention, not only because it posed a menace to navigation but also because it was feared that the obstruction might restrict the flow of the Niagara River and increase already dangerously high water levels on Lake Erie. Ownership of the wrecked barge was subsequently transferred to Lyle Morgan of Buffalo, to whom the authorities gave a deadline of September 24 for presenting a viable plan for its removal. On October 8, "The Journal of Commerce" reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had commenced salvage operations expected to cost from $3 million to $4 million. Salvage managers, the Don John Marine Company, subcontracted to the Canadian Dredge and Dock Company Ltd. the work of placing concrete anchors in the Lake Erie bedrock to brace steel cables that will secure a barge fitted with double winches. Moored by cables from this barge will be a twin-armed cranebarge capable of lifting 300 tons with each arm, and this derrick will attempt to pull the wrecked barge away from the bridge pier. The big crane is being brought from the Gulf of Mexico and is to be on site in early November. The salvage job is said to be the most costly ever undertaken in the Buffalo area.
When just above the Huron Cut at 8:00 p.m., October 27. bound for Escanaba, the Interlake 1,000-footer JAMES R. BARKER ruptured a fuel line to her starboard engine, causing a fire which disabled the engine. She anchored out of the channel and was still there on October 29, awaiting the arrival of her near-sister WILLIAM J. DeLANCEY which, in a most unusual move, was to tow her to the shipyard at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for the necessary repairs.
It is reported that "C.S.L. interests" have purchased the "Panamax" bulk carrier PACIFIC PEACE (O.N.398999) from Lombard Discount Ltd. (Furness Withy Shipping Ltd.), London, and have called tenders from South Korean shipyards for her conversion to a self-unloader. She is 747 (o.a.) x 106 x 63, 38408 Gross and 66844 DWT., built in 1982 by Govan Shipbuilders Ltd., Govan, Scotland, as Hull 274 (one hull number ahead of Misener's CANADA MARQUIS). It is believed that C.S.L. will register the ship in Nassau and will use her to move coal to Portugal from the U.S. east coast, and from Colombia to Florida. Her new name will be ATLANTIC HURON, one of a series of names originally reserved for the C.S.L. "ocean-lakers".
Things have gone poorly in 1986 for the lake fleet of United States Steel (now called USX). Its red-hulled lakers went to the wall by early August as a result of a steelworkers' strike and there has been no progress toward resolution of the dispute. As well, it has been suggested that USX may be the object of takeover bids by other financial interests. Despite the strike, the "Bradley" section of the tinstack fleet kept operating because its crews have different union affiliation, but even those ships laid up during the fall as their labour contract expired October 1st. As a result, other fleets are now carrying the cargoes that usually are hauled by the "Bradley" boats.
The veteran Muskoka Lakes passenger steamer SEGWUN this year had her most successful season since her reactivation after two decades of idleness. It will be recalled that SEGWUN, after her retirement in 1958, served as a museum at Gravenhurst until she underwent protracted and extensive restoration in the 1970s. The main problem now facing the operators of the 99-year-old steamer is that she must be drydocked for survey and inspection, but there is nowhere to take her from the water as a result of the removal of the local marine railway during a recent "beautification" of the Gravenhurst waterfront. It was hoped that Provincial government funds would be made available to build a new railway, but no such help has been forthcoming, and a public campaign has been launched to raise the $150,000 necessary for the project.
The Lloyd's Intelligence casualty report for October 9th indicated that the salt-water ship FEDERAL LAKES, a regular visitor to the lakes since she was acquired by the Federal Commerce interests and re-registered in the U.S.A., had run into difficulties. The vessel sent an "urgency signal" from a position Lat. 55.53.5 N., Long. 27.18.4 W., course 238, as the ship was encountering 35 to 40 foot swells in Force Ten winds, her port engine was shut down, and she was having problems maintaining headway. She advised that help might be sought if the situation deteriorated, but apparently she made her way safely through the storm. At the time, FEDERAL LAKES was bound from Bremerhaven to Montreal via Pentland Firth. The ship had earlier been laid up temporarily at Detroit but was reactivated on September 15, and she and FEDERAL SEAWAY are both busy in the Detroit-Toledo-Montreal-Rotterdam-Bremerhaven Ro/ro trades. Meanwhile, Fednav Lakes Services Inc. of Detroit has been reconstituted as a division of Fednav (U.S.A.) Inc.
We seldom have space in these pages to note "firsts" (cargoes, arrivals, etc.) at lake ports, but several interesting ships called at Goderich during the summer. On June 13, the U.S. Steel self-unloader CALCITE II made her very first call at Goderich, and loaded salt for Green Bay, Wisconsin. Another tinstacker, CASON J. CALLAWAY arrived on July 19 and loaded a part-cargo of salt for Duluth. She cleared for Stoneport, where she topped up with stone, also consigned to Duluth. On July 11, ONTADOC arrived in port under command of Captain Lillian Kluka, the first female master of a major lake vessel. Capt. Kluka has been serving as alternate skipper aboard a number of Paterson vessels in 1986, and she has been the subject of many feature articles in the lake-area press.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.