The years around the turn of the century brought with them a boom in the construction industries and as a result a great number of cement manufacturing plants were started up in Canada. The concentration of such operations was particularly great in Southern Ontario. Unfortunately, many of the firms were set up in such a hurry that little thought was given to problems of transportation of raw materials and products, plants located in Ontario being unable to compete in the market in outlying provinces where imported product could be obtained cheaper.
The demand for cement did not decrease over the years but rather increased. However, the multitude of cement producers were flooding the market with their products to such an extent that by 1908 supply far exceeded demand and the manufacturers stood at the brink of disaster.
In 1909 a group of gentlemen headed by the enterprising young Max Aitken (later to be known across Canada as Lord Beaverbrook) formed the Canada Cement Company Limited by merging the interests of ten existing cement producers, The move cut down on operating expenses, eliminated over-production, and greatly reduced the cut-throat competition for markets which had virtually brought the industry to its knees. Inefficient plants were closed, equipment was updated, and new facilities were opened in areas where they could be of some use other than just competing with a rival producer. In addition, several other companies were bought out as the years passed,
The company continued with these two vessel until 1968 when BULKARIER was sold. This steamer usually operated in the Lower St. Lawrence and the Gulf, but she did operate into the lakes during the war years (when she carried coal) and again in 1958. The one problem with this ship was that she unloaded by means of a boom, much like a collier, whereas CEMENTKARRIER uses a type of air-slide equipment, and the Toronto plant had no hopper into which BULKARIER could unload. On each of her trips to Toronto in 1958, therefore, BULKARIER would have to await the arrival of CEMENTKARRIER, wait for her to unload her own cargo, and then unload into CEMENTKARRIER from where the cargo could go to the dock via the usual route. Needless to say, BULKARIER soon went back down the river to her usual stamping grounds.
Once her mate was sold, CEMENTKARRIER carried on alone, trying to hold down all the company's routes, but primarily operating on the Picton to Toronto run. She adopted a new insignia in 1970 when Canada Cement merged with Lafarge Canada Ltd., another cement producer which had operations in Quebec and British Columbia. The new firm is known as Canada Cement Lafarge Ltd.,
A new plant was completed at Bath, Ontario, during 1973, and while the plant was under construction, Canada Cement was casting its eyes around for new vessels to carry the produce of the new facility. The firm toyed with the idea of building two tug-barge combinations, but wisely rejected this proposal in favour of the conversion of an existing vessel to a bulk cement carrier. The package freighter ENGLISH RIVER was chartered from Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. and was placed in drydock at Port Arthur Shipyards for the necessary conversion. The new vessel is to enter service in 1974 but will not displace CEMENTKARRIER as yet, although the company hopes to be able to dispose of her eventually. Although getting along in years, she is one of the most immaculately maintained ships on the lakes and we hope she will continue to serve for many years to come.
JOHN DUNCAN (16), (b) HOWARD W. (U. S. 76960) (C. 133821). Wooden bulk steamer built 1891 at Green Bay, Wisconsin, 225.2 x 37.8 x 16.7. Gross 1268, Net 997. Originally owned and operated by John Duncan of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Later sold to H. J. Pauly & Co., Milwaukee. Sold 1913 to Canada Cement Transport Ltd., Montreal, and transferred to Canadian registry. Sold 1916 to the Canada Import Co. Ltd., Montreal, and registered in the name of Howard W. Ltd., Quebec. Renamed (b) HOWARD W. Collided with package freight steamer LAKEPORT on Lake St. Francis, October 29, 1919. Extensively damaged and abandoned as a total loss.
PUEBLO (16), (b) RICHARD W. (23), (c) PALMBAY. (U. S. 150512) (C. 133822). Wooden bulk steamer built 1891 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 225.7 x 36.6 x 19.4. Gross 1349, Net 1054. Originally owned by the Green Line of Milwaukee, Merrill & Co. operators. Generally operated between Lake Michigan and Oswego and Ogdensburg. Operation taken over during the middle 1890's by R. P. Fitzgerald & Co., W. E. Fitzgerald, manager. Sold 1913 to Canada Cement Transport Ltd. and transferred to Canadian registry. Sold 1916 to the Canada Import Co. Ltd., Montreal, and registered in the name of Richard W. Ltd., Quebec. Sold 1923 to Bay Line Ltd., Montreal, which shortly became known as the Tree Line Navigation Co. Ltd. Renamed (c) PALMBAY. Laid up 1925 in Portsmouth Bay, Kingston. Subsequently damaged by fire while lying idle. Hull removed 1937 and sunk in deep water in Lake Ontario.
BULKARIER (72), (b) SABLE ISLAND. (C. 160726). Steel self-unloading bulk cement carrier, steam-powered, built for the line 1929 by the Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. at Haverton-Hill-on-Tees, England. 253.0 x 43.3 x 23.9. Gross 2399, Net 1245. Used exclusively on St. Lawrence until placed on coal run on lakes 1942. Returned to river service after the war and served mainly there with exception of brief period in 1958 when back on Lake Ontario. Lengthened to 326. 0 at Lauzon, Quebec, 1961. Gross 3115, Net 1694. Sold 1968 to J. D. Irving, St. John, N. B. but apparently never used. Sold October 1971 to the Consortium Ile d'Orleans (McNamara, Porter & Marine Industries) for use as self-propelled sludge carrier on the North Traverse dredging project near Quebec City. Dieselized and rebuilt 1972 at Dartmouth, N. S.
CEMENTKARRIER. (C. 160732). Steel self-unloading bulk cement carrier, electric motorvessel, built for the line 1930 by the Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. (Hull 175) at Haverton-Hill-on-Tees, England. 253.0 x 43.4 x 18.6. Gross 1971, Net 1127. Lengthened to 302.5 at Lauzon, Quebec, 1960, and a new stem fitted. Gross 24l5, Net 1220. In service.
ENGLISH RIVER. (C. 188398). Steel package freight motorvessel built 1961 by Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. (Hull 17l) at Collingwood, Ontario. 389.0 x 60.0 x 36.8. Gross 6639, Net 3661. Originally built for Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal, and chartered 1973 to Canada Cement Transport Ltd. Presently under conversion to self-unloading bulk cement carrier at Port Arthur Shipyards Ltd.
(As a useful source of information for this history, we would like to give credit to "The Canada Cement Lafarge Story," a handsome publication sent to its shareholders by the company at the time of the merger in 1970.)
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.