On April 23rd, "The Journal of Commerce" reported that, in response to an earlier request, the U.S. Maritime Administration had given approval for the sale of the self-unloader T. W. ROBINSON and the straight-deck "Super" A. H. FERBERT by the USS Great Lakes Fleet Inc. to Marine Salvage Ltd., Port Colborne. It seems likely that both steamers will be towed to the scrapyard during 1987, but it is not yet evident whether they will be dismantled on the lakes or resold to overseas breakers.
The same issue of "The Journal of Commerce" mentioned that U.S. Mar Ad had received a request from the Inland Steel Company, Chicago, for permission to sell its 79-year-old straight-deck bulk carrier E. J. BLOCK to Marine Salvage Ltd., undoubtedly for scrapping. The BLOCK, one of the last extant units of the old Hawgood fleet, was built back in 1908 by the West Bay City Shipbuilding Company as (a) W. R. WOODFORD (12). After the dissolution of the Hawgood interests, she sailed as (b) N. F. LEOPOLD (43). She was repowered after World War Two but, although a motorship thereafter, she retained much of her traditional appearance. During her last years of service in the attractive Inland colours, she spent most of her time ferrying ore up the narrow channel to the company's plant at Indiana Harbor, and only infrequently ventured up the lakes for a cargo of her own. As a result of depressed economic conditions in the steel industry, and the advent of other methods of trans-shipping Inland's ore from the harbour docks to its plant, E. J. BLOCK has spent the last several seasons in idleness. Her sale will leave the Inland fleet with only three freighters, JOSEPH L. BLOCK, WILFRED SYKES and EDWARD L. RYERSON, of which only the first two named are presently operating.
On the drydock at Port Weller at the beginning of May was the C.S.L. motorship PRAIRIE HARVEST, which was undergoing repairs for extensive bottom damage suffered in a grounding, and she was due to be in the dock until mid-May. The docking of PRAIRIE HARVEST at Port Weller was unusual in that, in recent years, C.S.L. vessels have not normally used that facility. However, with the closing of the Collingwood shipyard and the merging of the ship repair and building interests of the C.S.L. and ULS groups, we likely will be seeing more C.S.L. vessels in the Port Weller dock in future.
After the better part of two years away from her usual home waters, the 82-foot tug MOUNT McKAY headed back to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in late April. In 1985, J. W. Purvis Marine Ltd. of the Soo sold MOUNT McKAY to Windsor interests who subsequently encountered financial difficulties, and ever since the "plastered" tug has been lying in the government slip at Sarnia. The troubles have now been resolved and MOUNT McKAY has reverted to the possession of Purvis, who fitted her out and sailed her back to the Soo recently. It is not yet known what Purvis will do with the tug, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that she might be rebuilt and repowered. The tug's hull, incidentally, is 79 years of age but very strongly constructed.
For most of her career, and particularly the last few years, Algoma Central's stemwinder self-unloader ALGOLAKE, which was built in 1977, has been a virtual stranger to the grain trade, spending much of her time carrying cargoes such as salt, coal and potash. With the grain rush this spring, however, Algoma sent her off to the St. Lawrence River with grain. Unfortunately, as she was unloading this cargo at Quebec during the week before Easter, two of ALGOLAKE's bulkheads collapsed, allowing grain to slide from both directions into the intervening slack hold. The sudden lack of support from below also caused rather substantial damage to the deck over the hold involved. Arrangements were immediately made for the necessary repairs to be put in hand by M.I.L. Vickers at Montreal. It is interesting to note that ALGOLAKE also had difficulties whilst upbound on her previous trip. Bound for the Soo with a cargo of coal, she encountered engine problems and the tug AVENGER IV had to be dispatched from the Soo to tow her into DeTour. She proceeded to the Soo to unload, the necessary mechanical adjustments having been made, and then sailed for Thunder Bay to load her grain cargo for Quebec.
In our last issue, we mentioned that LAWRENCECLIFFE HALL and BEAVERCLIFFE HALL had been drydocked for necessary survey and inspection at the M.I.L. Vickers yard at Montreal during March. We now learn that the third Halco/Navican bulker in need of docking, MAPLECLIFFE HALL, was on the Vickers dock in mid-April and since has entered service. CARTIERCLIFFE HALL will be due for docking in August and we presume that she will then go to the same yard. Meanwhile, the various Halco/Navican vessels have been observed in service this spring sporting new blue paint on their pilothouse sunvisors. The self-unloader FRANKCLIFFE HALL, which is operating in 1987 under charter to Canada Steamship Lines, is still in Halco colours, although she has been flying the C.S.L. houseflag.
The A. B. McLean Ltd. preparations for the move to its new site above the Canadian Soo Lock are continuing. McLean's idle lighter T. F. NEWMAN, which has been lying in the lower Soo harbour, was sunk in April as a facing for the firm's new sand dock, and the barge G.L.B. NO. 1 is also to be sunk as part of this dock. The former U.S. Steel steamer SEWELL AVERY, which arrived at the Soo on May 4 in tow of AVENGER IV and CHIPPEWA, will be sunk as the facing for the new loading dock for outgoing materials. McLean has also acquired the barge D.D.S. SALVAGER for operation, and she arrived at the Soo on May 4th in tow of IROQUOIS and W. J. IVAN PURVIS.
In the April issue, we reported on the fixture of Mar-Bulk Shipping's self-unloader AMBASSADOR to carry a cargo of barley from Ghent, Belgium, to Dam-mam, Saudi Arabia. AMBASSADOR, of course, is the former CANADIAN AMBASSADOR, which ULS International flagged out to Vanuatu registry late in 1986. One of our members observed AMBASSADOR at Tampa on April 16, and she later loaded a cargo of American coal out of Hampton Roads for Europe. As the Persian Gulf fixture was for March or April, it seems likely that another vessel (such as CITADEL HILL, which already was in Europe) was substituted for AMBASSADOR. We should also note that it is our understanding that ULS may not bring AMBASSADOR back into Canadian registry, and that CANADIAN PIONEER might well follow her into Vanuatu registry within the next year or so.
During the early evening of April 17, four occupants of small boats on the St. Clair River got an unexpected taste of the river's cold waters when two pleasure craft had an altercation with the ULS straight-decker CANADIAN RANGER. The RANGER apparently had to swing wide near Russell Island to pass another ship when she hit one of the fishing boats. No assessment of liability has yet been made. What is a wonder to us is that there have not been more incidents of this type, as pleasure boaters on the St. Clair River constantly obstruct the shipping channel, and the weekend small boat situation on the crowded waterway is nothing short of a "zoo".
One of our spies observed the idle cement carrier ROBERT KOCH at Contrecoeur during mid-April and has confirmed the earlier reports that the vessel is almost untouched by the breakers, except for the partial dismantling of her pilothouse, which was done last autumn. We are not aware of the reason for the delay in the scrapping of the former motorship, which sustained rather extensive hull damage during the winter of 1985-86 when she lay aground off the entrance to the harbour at Oswego, New York, after a late-season accident.
With Canadian lake fleets enjoying one of the best spring seasons in memory, only one dark cloud is looming on the horizon, that being the possibility of labour difficulties. Although several unions are talking strike, the two most pressing problems involve C.N. and C.P. railway workers (the railways carry the grain to Thunder Bay) who may conceivably call a strike soon, and the S.I.U, which presently is taking a strike vote in connection with wage, overtime and benefit rollbacks, as well as a reduction in crew sizes, which have been sought by the shipping companies. The S.I.U. could call a strike as early as June and, considering the atmosphere of hostility which has developed (fired by certain union statements), it is not at all unlikely that a work stoppage will take place. Needless to say, such a possibility is encouraging shippers to carry as much grain as possible early in the season.
Last month, we reported that Shell Canada had disposed of its fleet and, although some sources have described the transaction as a sale of the Shell tankers, we still believe it to be a long-term charter, such as those under which Gulf and Texaco earlier parted with their lake fleets. We should note that the firm to which the tankers have gone, and which formerly was known as Societe Sofati/Soconav, has been reorganized as Socanav Inc. (note carefully the spelling). The name is an abbreviation of Societe Canadienne de Navigation. Since last autumn, the Socanav tankers have also acquired new funnel colours; the stacks are now white with a wide blue band and a black top, with a large stylized letter 'S' in white on the blue band. Meanwhile, at Toronto, NORTHERN SHELL has not been fitted out, and we have heard suggestions that this ship does not fit into Socanav's plans, despite her Arctic capabilities, and that she may be "sold" out of the Shell fleet takeover.
Early reports concerning the renaming of various Algoma Central vessels, as mentioned in our April issue, indicated that the new name of LAKE WABUSH was to be CAPTAIN HENRY JACKMAN, spelled out the long way. Now that the ship has entered service, we note that the name has been painted on the hull as CAPT. HENRY JACKMAN.
Two interesting deep-sea passenger ships will be amongst the 1987 visitors to the St. Lawrence, which is now attracting cruises in ever-increasing numbers. Bermuda Star Line has acquired LIBERTE from American Hawaii Cruises (which ran her unsuccessfully to Tahiti), and is renaming her CANADA STAR. Formerly VOLENDAM, MONARCH SUN and BRASIL, she is a sistership of BERMUDA STAR (ex VEENDAM, MONARCH STAR, confusingly BRASIL, and ARGENTINA) but we will not get into details of when the sisters carried which of their many names. CANADA STAR will run sixteen seven-day summer excursions from New York to Quebec and Montreal. Probably the most impressive 1987 visitor to the river will be the Cunard/NAC beauty SAGAFJORD, which will call at Quebec on October 5 and at Montreal the following day. SAGAFJORD will be running out of Fort Lauderdale but, as usual with vessels of this superior class, the trip can be combined into any lengthy cruise combination providing that one had limitless funds available...
In the January issue, we mentioned that a group of Sandusky investors had purchased the DIXIE SOUTHERN in Louisiana, were refitting her as a passenger vessel, and would operate her on Lake Erie in 1987 as CITY OF SANDUSKY. The CITY OF SANDUSKY was reported upbound in the Seaway on April 22 en route to Toledo. The vessel is 110 feet in length, capacity 350 passengers.
The March 31 snowstorm in Southern Ontario not only covered spring flowers and forced people to haul out their winter gear again. It also played havoc with shipping at Hamilton, for the snowload on the deck of the vertical lift bridge across the canal at Burlington Beach caused the span to become stuck in the closed position, blocking the harbour entrance until the problem was cleared. This is not the first time that the bridge has halted traffic. It worked fine until a few years ago, when railroad tracks were removed from its deck and the roadway was widened, apparently without concern for what the additional road weight would do to the delicate balance between the lift span and the counterweights. That embarrassing problem was rectified, but the balance must still be incorrect, for on two occasions snowload has caused the same problem...
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.