In October 2010, the Government of Canada elected to remove a long standing 25% import duty on vessels built in foreign yards and brought under Canadian flag. This duty had been put in place to protect Canadian shipyards from foreign competition but was becoming increasingly damaging to domestic shippers as more Canadian yards went into decline and bankruptcy or became unable to build new commercial vessels economically. This duty remission combined with falling orders at Chinese shipyards and a high Canadian dollar proved to be the perfect environment for a long awaited Great Lakes fleet renewal program that ultimately translated into CSL’s Trillium Class vessels.
The Trillium Class vessels were designed by the Canadian firm Cooke Naval Architect Consultants Inc. to be CSL’s newest generation of state-of-the-art bulk carriers focusing on maximum fuel efficiency, minimal environmental impact and providing overall operational efficiency while meeting evolving needs of customers on the Great Lakes. The naming scheme for these four vessels follows in the footsteps of CSL’s famous ‘Bay Class’ straight deckers launched in the 1960’s.
The contract to build this new generation of self unloading lakers was awarded to Chengxi Shipyard of Jiangyin, Jiangsu China. The final of four nearly identical sister ships, Hull CX9304, was launched September 21, 2012. She was christened Baie Comeau (2) alongside her sistership Whitefish Bay (2) in a joint ceremony taking place on November 16, 2012. After successful sea trials, the new vessel was delivered to CSL on June 20, 2013 and departed China on June 30 to begin her delivery trip across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal and on to Montreal QC. She successfully arrived at Montreal on August 25th where she stayed until September 2nd having the temporary hull strengthening removed that had been installed for the deep sea voyage, in addition to other minor modifications to prepare her for entering service on the Great Lakes.
While the name Baie Comeau had not previously been carried by any other vessel in the CSL fleet, it had belonged to a 1954 built canaller owned by the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Co. Completed by Atlantic Shipbuilding Co., Newport Wales UK, she was one of several diesel powered canallers (252x44x20) built to close out small ports on the old St. Lawrence Canals following the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Renamed Joseph Medill Paterson in 1955, she operated on the Great Lakes until 1967 when she was sold for off lakes as Exuma Sound. She was presumed broken up by 1986.
The new Baie Comeau measures 740-feet long by 78-feet wide and 48-feet deep. The self-unloader's 25 hatches feed into 5 holds where she can carry approximately 37,690 tons at the mid-summer draft of 29.5-feet. The vessel displaces 8,101 tons lightship. Her self-unloading equipment consists of a two-belt gravity fed system with a ‘C’ type loop belt elevator that feeds a stern mounted discharge boom that can unload at up to 5,450 tons per hour. Motive power is supplied by a single M.A.N B&W 6S50ME-B9 6-cylinder, slow speed diesel engine producing 8750kw or 10,680 BHP. Power is transmitted directly to a single controllable pitch propeller that can push her to a service speed of 13.5 knots. She is equipped with both bow and stern thrusters. The ship is up to 5 percent more fuel efficient than CSL's previous class of ships, and will save approximately 750 tonnes of fuel per year – amounting to yearly carbon emissions reductions of 2,400 tonnes.
The Baie Comeau departed Montreal on September 2nd on her maiden voyage on the Great Lakes system. Her first port of call was Windsor ON to unload a partial cargo of ballast stone that had been loaded in China for extra stability during the Pacific crossing. After a successful discharge, she proceeded upbound to Superior WI to take on her first paying load of iron ore for the transshipment facility at Quebec City.