1998 Great Lakes Shipping Year in Review

By: Rod Burdick

1998 was an eventful season on the Great Lakes. The season started in mid-February with the sailing of Inland Lakes' PAUL H. TOWNSEND in cement trades and Oglebay Norton's EARL W. OGLEBAY shuttling ore on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland.

Ore shipments from Escanaba started on March 13 with the departure of Inland Steel's JOSEPH L. BLOCK. The Welland Canal opened before the Soo Locks on March 24 with the upbound passage of Seaway Bulker CANADIAN LEADER. The next day, American Steamship Company's (ASC) WALTER J. MCCARTHY was first through the Soo Locks.

On the American side, most of the fleet saw service. Idle were long-time lay-up JOHN SHERWIN, KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, S. T. CRAPO, and E. M. FORD. The FORD celebrated her 100th anniversary. Rumors persisted about a centennial lakes tour but never materialized. She remains in Saginaw storing cement.

Interlake's self-unloading barge PATHFINDER entered service mated to the new Bark River Towing tug JOYCE L. VAN ENKEVORT. Interlake is constructing a new tug for PATHFINDER named DOROTHY ANN for the 1999 season. PATHFINDER's unique unloading system performed less than expected. She will receive sloped holds during winter lay-up.

Another tug/barge entered service. Former car ferry CITY OF MIDLAND 41 made her first trips as the barge PERE MARQUETTE 41 with the tug UNDAUNTED for Pere Marquette Shipping.


American Steamship Company  painted the thousand footer GEORGE A. STINSON in their fleet colors. She is the first AmShip footer with a black hull. Also added to her bow is a stylized red N, which pays tribute to the National Steel Co., for which she carries taconite pellets.
Also with a new look is Coast Guard cutter MACKINAW. Red paint replaced her original ice white.

Inland Steel was purchased by Dutch steelmaker Ispat International. To meet the Jones Act, Inland Steel's fleet was transferred to Indiana Harbor Steamship Company. Gone are the historic "Inland Steel" billboards from WILFRED SYKES, JOSEPH L. BLOCK, and EDWARD L. RYERSON. Charter ADAM E. CORNELIUS carried her last cargoes for Inland. She will go back to ASC in 1999.

On the Canadian side, Algoma made headlines with the purchase of tankers from Imperial Oil and ALGOWEST's return to service in July as a self-unloader. Algoma fleet revitalization program continues this winter at Port Weller Drydocks on AGAWA CANYON.

Port Weller Drydocks also was awarded a contract with CSL to replace the hulls and bows or several vessels. First up is J. W. MCGIFFIN this winter.

Seaway Self-Unloaders expanded its growing fleet with the construction of CANADIAN TRANSFER at Port Weller Drydocks. TRANSFER was built with the bow, hull, and self-unloader of HAMILTON TRANSFER (ex CRISPIN OGLEBAY) and the stern and engine of former Seaway Bulker CANADIAN EXPLORER. TRANSFER's first season began in August but was shortened by two mishaps involving her rudder.


Canadian lakers that did not see service in 1998 included TARANTAU, COMEAUDOC, and long-time lay-ups QUEDOC and VANDOC. Many bulkers sailed only for the fall grain rush.

By the end of 1998, foreign steel "dumping" shortened the season for many lakers.

EDGAR B. SPEER closed the Soo Locks on January 15, 1999.


completed on January 27, 1999.