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 Detroit River, 2002

Mike Nicholls

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Capt. Ralph Tucker

By George Wharton

Designed specifically for Imperial Oil’s service requirements along the Canadian East Coast and Arctic regions; this coastal tanker was built as hull #39 by Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd., St. Catharines, ON. The keel was laid down on June 25, 1965 with the launching taking place on November 17, 1965 for owners Imperial Oil Ltd., Toronto, ON. The new tanker was christened Imperial Acadia and formally entered service at Halifax, NS on April 19, 1966.

The Imperial Acadia is powered by a single 5,326 b.h.p. B&W model 750-VT2BF-110 seven cylinder diesel engine burning intermediate grade 180 fuel. The power is fed to a single fixed pitch propeller giving the vessel a service speed of 15.5 m.p.h. The tanker is fitted with a 375 h.p. bow thruster. The vessel is equipped with 19 zinc coated cargo tanks and 1 specialty tank where a total of 81,764 barrels of liquid petroleum products can be carried (at 98% tank capacity) at a maximum mid summer draft of 26’07 ˝”. Fifteen of the 19 tanks are heated and capable of maintaining a temperature of up to 140 ˝ F. Other liquid operating capacities include 2,028 barrels of fuel oil and 318 barrels of marine diesel oil. The tanker displaces 3,566 tons lightship.

On May 21, 1974; the Imperial Acadia’s bow was punctured by ice causing flooding in the bow thruster room while operating in heavy ice 20 miles east of Peckford Island along the Atlantic coast. The tanker grounded off Port aux Basques, NF on June 25, 1982 holing the vessel’s #3 starboard tank spilling 84,000 gallons of diesel oil. Half of the spill was recovered and the remaining cargo offloaded allowing her to proceed under her own power to Halifax for repair. Then, while docked at the French island of Miquelon in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; the Imperial Acadia was battered against the pier by heavy seas during a severe winter storm on January 20, 1990. Damage to the tanker’s hull was severe to the extent that there was thought of not repairing the vessel. After being taken to Marysville, NF; the Imperial Acadia was “carried” to Halifax as cargo aboard the semi-submersible tug Mighty Servant 1 arriving March 17, 1990. After her arrival at Halifax, the decision was made to repair the tanker. Shortly after, on May 23, 1990; a bilge fire at Halifax caused further major damage but the vessel completed sea trials June 23, 1990 and resumed trading.

The Imperial Acadia tied up at Halifax for a final time under the Imperial Oil banner on March 24, 1997. On January 5, 1998, Algoma Central acquired ownership of 4 of Imperial Oil’s 5 tankers for $13 million (CN) forming the new company Algoma Tankers Ltd. The fifth tanker was purchased at a later date.  The Imperial Acadia was prepared for drydocking at Halifax, NS on January 17, 1998, emerging renamed Algoscotia on February 11 and resumed trading February 18, 1998 under her new banner with similar trade routes as before. The other 3 tankers involved were the Imperial Bedford (becoming the Algofax), Imperial St. Clair (becoming the Algosar) and Imperial St. Lawrence (becoming the Algoeast).  As part of this arrangement was the granting of a long term contract to Algoma Tankers by Imperial Oil for the marine transportation on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Canadian east coast of Imperial’s liquid petroleum products.

On April 2, 2001; McKeil Marine took delivery of the Algoscotia at Halifax, NS after acquiring the vessel from Algoma Tankers; naming the tanker Ralph Tucker. On April 24, 2001; McKeil formally announced the acquisition of the tanker renaming the vessel Capt. Ralph Tucker after a long time friend of the McKeil family who had served as Captain on their tugs. Transport Canada’s registration shows the tanker’s new owners as McKeil Work Boats Ltd., Hamilton, ON and classified as a “cargo” vessel.

McKeil has kept the tanker active carrying calcium chloride cargoes from General Chemical, Manistee, MI to Amherstburg, ON. On September 13, 2001, the Capt. Ralph Tucker required tug assistance following a problem with an engine turbo charger. Tugs Doug McKeil and Paul E. No. 1 assisted the tanker from the Ford Dock in Walkerville down the Detroit River to the Allied Chemical dock at Amherstburg where the crew completed repairs. The Capt. Ralph Tucker continued through the 2001/02 winter carrying calcium chloride on this trade route.

Following grounding near Amherstburg early in 2002, the Capt. Ralph Tucker proceeded to Heddle Marine’s floating drydock in Hamilton, ON in September of 2002 for an extensive repainting program and damage repair to her #1 port tank caused by the grounding. The repairs brought the tanker back to Ice Class 1A status thus allowing the vessel to operate year round.

Due to extreme ice conditions in the Straits of Mackinac and northern Lake Michigan during the winter of 2002/03, the tanker was engaged in a shuttle service from the Meullers Dock in Sarnia, ON carrying brine to Allied Chemical in Amherstburg. While unloading a cargo of brine at Amherstburg on February 22, 2003; high winds and heavy drift ice forced the tanker from the dock pushing the tanker a short distance south of the dock even after all three anchors had been dropped. The crew was able to quickly and safely disconnect the unloading lines avoiding any risk of pollution. The next day, continued severe ice conditions pushed the tanker aground about 600 feet south of the Allied Chemical dock. With tug assistance, the tanker was pushed free and was able to proceed under its own power to Windsor, ON where inspections showed no damage and no risk of pollution.

The Capt. Ralph Tucker has been active in many liquid bulk trades but was most often active in the calcium chloride and brine trades between Manistee, MI; Courtright, ON; and Amherstburg, ON.  However, in the Optima Shipbrokers weekly report dated August 16, 2004; the Capt. Ralph Tucker was noted as having been sold "As Is Where Is East Coast Canada" to ship breakers in India for US $297.50/Ldt at a displacement of 3,466 Ldt.  Throughout the 2004 season, the tanker had been in and out of lay up with much of the cargoes between Courtright, Amherstburg, and Manistee being handled by McKeil Marine's tug and barge combinations.

Overall dimensions
Length 440'04"
Beam 60'00"
Depth 31'00"
Capacity (barrels) 81,764 (at 98% capacity)

Inbound Manistee, Mi. Chris Franckowiak

Manistee River.

Pilothouse. Chris Franckowiak

Another view.



Windsor 2003. N. Schultheiss

Welland Canal, October, 2002. Mike Nicholls

Upbound on the St. Clair River, Sarnia, April 2004. George Wharton

Bow profile. George Wharton

As the Imperial Acadia. Jason LaDue Collection

As the Algoscotia. Algoma Tankers

Aerial view. Don Coles

Detroit River, 2003. Eric Stapleton

Stern view, August, 2002. Mike Nicholls

Detroit River, April 2002. Mike Nicholls

Engine trouble, September, 2001. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Unloading at Burns Harbor. Peter Zagorac

Docked at Allied Chemical in Amherstburg, Ont.

At the dock in Amherstburg. David Cozens

Detroit River. Eric Stapleton

August, 2002. Mike Nicholls

Stern view, April 2002. Mike Nicholls

Windsor 2003. N. Schultheiss

Loading at General Chemical, Manistee

Downbound Port Huron. Chris Franckowiak

Unloading at General Chemical, Amherstburg, Ont.

On board. Chris Franckowiak

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