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Port Reports - January 17

Duluth-Superior – Daniel Lindner

Burns Harbor, the last vessel to arrive at the Twin Ports for the 2020 navigation season, arrived via the Superior entry at 10:21 Saturday morning and backed into the Lakehead Pipeline/Enbridge dock for the winter. Paul R. Tregurtha, which had arrived in Duluth on Friday and moored at Port Terminal, moved to her layup berth at SMET on Saturday morning as well. With only four active vessels laid up between Duluth and Superior - the other two being Lee A. Tregurtha and Hon. James L. Oberstar, both at Fraser Shipyards - the 2020/21 winter fleet is considerably smaller than normal. Edward L. Ryerson remains mothballed at Fraser for yet another winter, while the rusting hull of the former steamer J.B. Ford still sits intact at the Azcon Metals dock where she is to be broken up eventually.

St. Marys River – Know Your Ships

Anglian Lady/barge PML 9000 arrived upbound to the Purvis Dock in the lower harbor Sunday late morning. She is expected to depart downbound with the barge Ironmaster on Sunday.

Northern Lake Michigan

Charlevoix: Saturday; 6:32 Prentiss Brown arrived to load cement products and departed at 12:46 for Chicago.

Sturgeon Bay, WI – Daniel Lindner

Cason J. Callaway arrived Sturgeon Bay at 08:00 Saturday and berthed next to her fleetmate John G. Munson at Bay Shipbuilding. American Century was anchored off Sherwood Point at the entrance to Sturgeon Bay Saturday night; she will more than likely wait for daylight on Sunday to arrive. John J. Boland is expected on Sunday, while the remainder of the layup fleet should be following within the next few days.

Milwaukee, WI – MKE Marine Reports

No vessel traffic Saturday (01/16). Algoma Niagara is expected Sunday with salt from Goderich. Also likely to arrive Sunday is the Stewart J. Cort, which is coming up from Burns Harbor to spend winter at Milwaukee’s Heavy Lift Dock

Northern Lake Huron

Straits of Mackinac: Thursday; 20:15 15:28 G L Ostrander weighed anchor and departed for Alpena. 21:24.The tug Michigan and tanker barge Great Lakes weighed anchor and departed for Sarnia.

Lower St Marys River: Saturday; All the boats anchored above Detour departed for their destinations. 6:50 CCGS Samuel Risley weighed anchor to work on navaids in the Mississagi Straits. 9:11 USCG Mackinaw departed for the coast guard base in Cheboygan. 13:53 CCGS Samuel Risley went to anchor in Meldrum Bay. 14:01 Sharon MI / Huron Spirit weighed anchor and departed for Detroit.

Alpena: Saturday; 6:28 GL Ostrander arrived to load cement products.and departed at 12:08 for Detroit.

Goderich, ON – Bruce Douglas

Algoma Niagara cleared 12.47 am Saturday upbound for Milwaukee with salt. Algoma Intrepid expected next.

Lake Erie Ports for Saturday – Bill Kloss

As most of the Great Lakes fleets are headed into lay up, activity on Lake Erie is down to just a few ports.

Ashtabula: H. Lee White arrived at 23:59.

Conneaut: Edwin H. Gott arrived at 11:30.

Nanticoke: Algonova departed for Sarnia at 08:03.

Saginaw River Commercial Shipping Season Report 2020

1/17 - With the best season on record since 2008, the 2020 commercial shipping season on the Saginaw River is in the books. Traffic numbers have now increased for the fourth consecutive year, surpassing last season’s totals. The number of commercial vessel passages for 2020 were the highest they have been since the 2008 season, climbing over the 200 mark for the first time since that year. It is important to note however, that without the record number of wind turbine blade deliveries that came into the Saginaw River this season, the 2020 season would have had the exact same number of commercial deliveries as the 2019 season. It is still exciting to see the improvement, especially after a year rocked by a global pandemic, boats in extended layup, and lower numbers realized in other parts of the industry. Hard work continues to be put in by leaders of the industry, not only here on the Saginaw River locally, but across the Great Lakes, working improve infrastructure and product diversity, which allows for more opportunities to utilize maritime assets to move product, cheaper and more efficiently than other modes of transportation. The results of these efforts are showing dividends, and it is still my hope that the gains we are now seeing, foreshadow even better things to come in the future. The following is a look back on the 2020 commercial shipping season here on the Saginaw River, utilizing the information and data I have collected during this time period.

The 2020 season officially started on March 18th, with the arrival of the tug Spartan and her tank barge, Spartan II. The pair brought in a cargo of Calcium Chloride from the Occidental Chemical Corp., located in Ludington, Michigan, delivering it at Port Fisher in Bay City. The season ended when the steamer Alpena arrived on January 8, 2021 to unload a cargo of powdered cement at the Lafarge Cement Dock in Essexville. The 2020 season on the Saginaw River lasted for a total of 297 days. This was 19 days longer than in 2019. The start of the 2020 season was 22 days earlier than in 2019, with the end of the season two days earlier than in 2019.

For the 2020 commercial shipping season, there were a grand total of 202 commercial vessel passages on the Saginaw River, representing an increase of 21 more passages than the 2019 season. These passages were made by 45 different vessels, representing 18 different vessel management companies. Both were increases, as there were 37 unique vessels and 15 companies in 2019.

Looking at other numbers from the 2020 season, deliveries were made to a total of 17 individual docks along the banks of the Saginaw River. These were the same 17 that had received cargo in 2019. The dock seeing the most vessel traffic in 2020 was the Port Fisher/Bay Aggregates Dock in Bay City, with 45 vessel deliveries. This is three more than recorded during the previous season. In second and third place respectively were the Wirt Stone Dock in Bay City with 38 deliveries and the Wirt Stone Dock in Saginaw with 36 deliveries. Rounding out the top five are the Lafarge Cement Dock in Essexville with 23 deliveries and the Port Fisher/ International Dock with 21 deliveries. These top five docks accounted for a whopping 81% of the total commercial vessel deliveries in 2020. The two largest companies, Fisher and Wirt, each with multiple docks along the Saginaw River, accounted for a total of 78% of all commercial vessel deliveries. In all, accounting for split cargos by some vessels, which unloaded at two or more different docks during the same visit, there were 246 deliveries to the various docks along the Saginaw River. This is 42 more actual dock deliveries than during the 2019 season.

This table outlines the docks delivered to along with the number of vessels stopping there

The Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation tug, Olive L. Moore, paired with the self-unloading barge Menominee, defended their title of “Queen of the Saginaw River,” again making more trips to the river in 2020 than any other vessel. The pair logged 43 visits this season, eight more than in 2019 and 30 more than the boat the with second most trips to the Saginaw River, Interlake Steamship’s Herbert C. Jackson, who had 13. The Olive L. Moore/Menominee have been the workhorse of the Saginaw River 14 of the past 15 years. Rounding out the top five most frequent vessels is a three-way tie for third: Algoma Central’s Algoma Innovator, American Steamship’s John J. Boland, and Lower Lakes/Grand River’s Calumet, all with eight visits each.

The company leading the way with the most cargo deliveries to the Saginaw River during the 2020 season was Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation, with 70 vessel deliveries, an increase of 14 deliveries over 2019 and accounting for 35% of all deliveries in 2020. They have now been leading the way on the Saginaw River for 13 of the past 14 years. The Interlake Steamship Co. logged the second most visits, with 27 trips, down from 46 in 2019. Coming in third place was the American Steamship Co. with 21 deliveries to the Saginaw River, down three from 2019. These three companies accounted for 58% of all deliveries on the Saginaw River in 2020. Rounding out the top five companies were Algoma Central Marine and LafargeHolcim/Andrie, both with 15 trips each.

There were a number vessels that were visitors to the Saginaw River in 2019, that did not make a return visit here in 2020, with those vessels being American Steamship Co.’s 1,000 footers American Century, American Integrity, Indiana Harbor, and Walter J. McCarthy, Jr. Others were Sam Laud, Great Republic, and Manitoulin. Saltwater vessels included BBC Elbe, BBC Plata, BBC Polonia, BBC Louise, BBC Leda and Industrial Strength.

The list of boats that were not visitors in 2019 but did make an appearance on the Saginaw River in 2020 includes the longest vessel on the Great Lakes, Interlake Steamship’s Paul R. Tregurtha, making a first-ever visit, and the Robert S. Pierson and BBC Volga. There was a list of saltwater vessels making a first-ever visit to the Saginaw River in 2020: BBC Vessels Gdansk, Mont Blanc, Rushmore, Switzerland, Greenland, Edge, Song, Vesuvius, Peru, and Brazil. The others were Timgad, Zea Servant, Caroline, Amoenitas, Hilke, Calypso, Spiekeroog and Azoresborg.

There were a number of other notable stories during the 2020 season:

• Wind energy was a considerable theme relating to cargo delivered to the Saginaw River in 2020. Over the past few years, wind turbine components have been delivered here by boats, trains, and trucks, with the components including everything from the blades, to the tower segments, to the nacelles. This season however, we witnessed the largest ever amount of wind turbine blades delivered to the Saginaw River. Twenty one vessels called on the Port Fisher Dock in Bay City and unloaded these blades for delivery to wind energy farms throughout Michigan. As a result, Malcolm Marine Incorporated’s workhorse tug, Manitou, spent a large part of the 2020 season here on the Saginaw River, standing by at the Lafarge Cement dock in Essexville, ready to assist these saltwater vessels with turning around on the Saginaw River as well as getting safely on and off Port Fisher dock.

• The tug Manitou also assisted a number of other vessels, including Algoma Buffalo and Calumet, during a time of high water and currents due to extreme rainfall and dam failures on the tributaries that feed the Saginaw River, and the tanker Iver Bright, when she would arrive to unload liquid asphalt at the Bit-Mat dock.

• An iconic structure that sat on the bank of the Saginaw River since the 1940s disappeared from the landscape in 2020. The J.C. Weadock power generating plant in Essexville was retired by Consumers Energy in 2016 and demolition started. In 2020, with controlled explosions, the remains of the structure were brought down and hauled away. Interlake Steamship Co.’s Dorothy Ann – Pathfinder ended up making two deliveries to Consumers Energy, dropping stone to fill the hole left by the old Weadock plant.

• In February 2020, it was announced that Wilkinson Minerals would be opening a facility on the Saginaw River just east of the Independence Bridge in Bay City and begin pumping salt brine from a large deposit known as the Sylvania Sandstone Formation. Wilkinson Minerals has stated that “the company will produce both liquid and dry salt products, with the liquid products primarily shipped out on the river.” At last report, construction was supposed to begin in 2021.

• Maintenance dredging took place along sections of the Saginaw River during the 2020 season. Crews from the Ryba Marine Construction Co., based out of Cheboygan, MI, handled the work, with their tugs Kathy Lynn and Kristin Joelle each spending time working on the river.

• While not located on the Saginaw River, another iconic structure was lost in 2020, when crews demolished the old U.S. Gypsum marine loading building located in Lake Huron, offshore from their old mine in Alabaster. Built in the 1920s and last used in 2000, the scrap from the demolished building was barged to the Saginaw River, again by the Ryba Marine tug Kathy Lynn, and unloaded at the Port Fisher dock in Bay City for recycling and disposal.

• Some other vessels visiting the Saginaw River in 2020 were the U.S. Coast Guard cutters Hollyhock and Adler, handling aids to navigation work for the Saginaw River Entrance Channel out in Saginaw Bay. Michigan Department of Natural Resources research vessels Tanner and Wheeler also made appearances on the Saginaw River, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed the Saginaw River channel to insure there were no hidden hazards after hydroelectric dam failures in Edenville and Sanford caused flooding on the Saginaw River. Commercial shipping on the Saginaw River was suspended for a short time until conditions were safe enough for transit and the survey was completed.

As the shipping industry continues to evolve, adapt and move forward, it is the hoped that commercial traffic on the Saginaw River will continue to thrive and grow and that the products and materials handled continue to expand. Hopefully the 2021 season will be at least as good as 2020, and will be a safe and profitable one for everyone

Reported by: Todd Shorkey

Today in Great Lakes History - January 17

NORTHERN VENTURE closed the Welland Canal for the season as she passed downbound for Hamilton with coal in 1975.

In 1978, the CLIFFS VICTORY, JOSEPH H. FRANTZ, WILLIAM G. MATHER, ROBERT C. NORTON, CRISPIN OGLEBAY and J. BURTON AYERS formed a convoy in the Detroit River bound for Cleveland.

PHILIP D. BLOCK (Hull#789) was launched at Lorain, Ohio, by the American Ship Building in 1925.

The tanker GREAT LAKES was launched in 1963, as the a.) SINCLAIR GREAT LAKES (Hull#1577) at Decatur, Alabama, by Ingalls Iron Works Co.

JOHN E. F. MISENER was float launched in 1951, as a.) SCOTT MISENER (Hull#11) at St. Catharines, Ontario, by Port Weller Drydocks, Ltd.

January 17, 1902 - PERE MARQUETTE 2 ran aground at Ludington.

PERE MARQUETTE 19 grounded in limited visibility on January 17, 1916, two miles south of Big Point Sable, Michigan, 600 feet off shore. The captain made three unsuccessful attempts to find the Ludington Harbor entrance and on the turn around for the fourth attempt she grounded.

On 17 January 1899, the GERMANIA (wooden propeller freighter, 136 foot, 237 gross tons, built in 1875, at Marine City, Michigan) caught fire and burned to the water's edge at Ecorse, Michigan. The previous day, Norman Reno of Ecorse did some painting inside the cabin and it was presumed that the stove used to heat the cabin may have caused the blaze. The vessel was in winter lay-up at the rear of the home of Mr. W. G. Smith, her owner.

2000: FEDERAL VIBEKE got stuck in the ice on the St. Lawrence and was almost carried into the bridge at Quebec City. The vessel was bound for Sorel with steel. It first came to the Great Lakes in 1993 after previous visits as a) NOSIRA LIN beginning in 1981, b) DAN BAUTA in 1989, and c) KRISTIANIAFJORD in 1991. It was back as e) KALISTI in 2000 and f) NOBILITY in 2004. This bulk carrier arrived at Alang, India, for scrapping as h) OPAL II and was beached on November 14, 2012.

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.