Built in 1970 by Lithgows (1969) Ltd., East Yard, Glasgow, Scotland as their hull # 1177, this ocean bulk carrier was initially laid down as the Bulknes but was launched on September .2, 1970 as the Brooknes for Kristian Jebsens Rederi A/S, Bergen, Norway. The Brooknes was completed on December 18, 1970. In 1973, Langra Schiffahrtsges GmbH and Company KG, Hamburg, Germany took over the operation of the Brooknes.
The Brooknes' overall dimensions as built were 520' 04" (158.60m) loa (including bulbous bow) x 74' 10.5" (22.82m) beam x 42' 00" (12.80m) depth. The vessel was built with a hull strengthened for heavy cargoes and 6 hatches servicing 6 holds with a capacity of 21,540 tons (dwt). The ship was equipped with 6 Velle type 12-ton derricks mounted in pairs (each pair with 1 forward and aft facing) and capable of operating grabs carried onboard. She was initially powered by two 4,400 b.h.p. (3,236 kw) 8-cylinder single acting, 4 stroke cycle diesel engines built by Helsingor Skibs & Msk., Helsingor, Denmark driving a 4-blade KaMeWa controllable pitch propeller giving her a rated service speed of 15 knots. The ship had a capacity for 1,407 tonnes fuel and was fitted for the burning of high viscosity fuel. The vessel was also equipped with a 600 h.p. (441 kw) KaMeWa bow thruster.
The search by Algoma Central Corp. for a replacement for the Roy A. Jodrey which sank in the St. Lawrence River on November 21, 1974 led to the Brooknes, a ship with ocean capabilities and the possibility of year-round operation. After many negotiations with Jebsens, Algoma purchased the Brooknes for $7.5 million (US funds) at 12:01am, January 1, 1976 at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England and registered the ship in Hamburg, Germany the next day as Algosea. The purchase timing was crucial. Jebsens wanted to sell the ship in 1976 so they could claim depreciation on the ship for their 1975 Norwegian taxes. Since it was still 1975 in Canada, Algoma was able to claim a full year's tax depreciation of 15% on the 1975 purchase price. The ship was owned by Algoma Steamships Ltd., a subsidiary of Algoma Central Corp., Sault Ste. Marie, ON. Her new owners then sent the ship to Swan Hunter Ship Repairers, Northshields, England for lengthening 122' 06" (37.34m) by adding an additional hold. The lengthening to 642' 10" (195.94m) increased the ship's capacity to 24,481 tons (dwt) and cost $3.5 million.
Prior to sailing from England in early April, 1976, she was renamed Algosea after which the vessel departed for Port Colborne, ON, arriving on April 29, 1976 to be converted to a self-unloader by another Algoma subsidiary Herb Fraser and Associates. Prior to arriving at Port Colborne, the Algosea allided with a concrete wall below the Welland Canal's Lock 1 and then lost her cables and was blown across the canal below Lock 2 by strong winds. The conversion commenced on April 30 and included the removal of the deck cranes. Her new self-unloading equipment consisted of a three-belt gravity hopper system with vibrators fitted feeding a stern-mounted loop-belt elevator to a 245' 00" (74.77m) discharge boom. The designed discharge rate was up to 3,750 tons (3,810 mt) per hour. As completed, the Algosea's final configuration consisted of 9 hatches servicing 7 holds where the vessel could carry 23,750 tons (24,132 mt) at a mid-summer fresh water draft of 30' 05" (9.27m) and a Seaway capacity of 19,000 tons (19,305 mt) at the early Seaway draft of 26' 00" (7.92m). The new self-unloader was formally christened Algosea (1) by Mrs. Howard (Betty) Andrews, wife of the Vice President of Marine Services, Hanna Mining Co. as sponsor at a ceremony held at Port Colborne on October 19, 1976. The final cost to Algoma in acquiring the Algosea, the lengthening, the self-unloader conversion and other work was $17,713,409.
Meetings with Jebsens during the spring of 1976 exploring the possibilities of mutually beneficial operations of the ship resulted in nothing being settled upon. The Algosea departed Port Colborne on November 19, 1976 on her maiden voyage in ballast to Goderich, ON for a load of salt for Quebec City, QC passing downbound through the Welland Canal on November 27, 1976. Later that year, the vessel was buffeted by a storm in the Gulf of St. Lawrence causing considerable internal damage. After completing a round trip to the Gulf of Mexico in early 1977, severe ice conditions on the lower St. Lawrence River were encountered upon their return. With the safety of the crew and ship in mind, the decision was made to lay the Algosea up at Quebec City, QC in February, 1977.
After operating problems had been experienced on the Algosea, the decision was made to install a new crankshaft in June of 1980 as a solution. New engines were considered but the approximate $5 million was considered an expensive remedy. The Algosea rejoined the fleet in mid-July. Little improvement was realized however and by the late fall of 1981, it was decided that with the company's heavy investment in the Algosea already, new engines were required. As a result, 2 new MaK 6M552AK non-reversing, single acting 4 stroke cycle, 4,400 b.h.p. (3,236 kw) 6 cylinder diesel engines built by Krupp MaK Maschinenbau Gmbh, Kiel, Germany were installed at Halifax, NS during the winter of 1981/82 at a cost of $3,289,683. The new engines, using by IF280 grade fuel, continued to feed power to the single controllable pitch propeller.
An option to buy the Algosea was made to Navigation Sonamar, Inc., Pointe Claire, QC on September 11, 1980 for $23.25 million but expired January 1, 1981 without being exercised. Negotiations continued, however, focused around a 15-year charter of the Algosea based upon an agreed rate per day with a guaranteed minimum usage of 330 days per year. The charter began in 1982 with Navigation Sonamar as charterers, the vessel being operated by SOQUEM, Inc. (Societe Quebecois d'Exploration Maniere), Ste. Foy, QC. Under the charter, the vessel would mainly carry salt between Iles-de-la Madeleine (Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence) and Quebec ports along the lower St. Lawrence River as well as Great Lakes and east coast ports.
On the Algosea's first trip into the Great Lakes since being repowered, the vessel allided with the east pier at the Port Weller, ON (Lake Ontario) entrance to the Welland Canal on June 6, 1982. The extensively damaged bow was patched sufficiently to allow her to proceed to Port Arthur Shipbuilding, Thunder Bay, ON for dry-docking where a new ice-strengthened bow was fabricated and installed. By mid-August, the vessel was ready to sail. Just prior to her return to service, the ship was reflagged Canadian out of Quebec City, QC and renamed Saunière honoring the salt trade of her charter (the literal French translation meaning 'salter'). Classed under the Lloyd's Register of Shipping, her hull notation read: "bulk carrier, Great Lakes service (with limits of Great Lakes and River St. Lawrence, Strait of Belle Isle, south of 52 ~ north latitude and coasting seaboard of Canada during the months of April through to December)".
After renaming, the Saunière promptly then loaded 18,000 tons (18,289 mt) of potash at Thunder Bay for Baltimore, MD. On April 26, 1984, the vessel was noted to have grounded in the St. Lawrence River near Trois-Rivieres, QC and after being released, proceeded on to Baltimore, MD to load phosphate. On December 15, 1995, the self-unloader touched bottom at Fairport, OH with no damage or pollution reported. A much more serious incident occurred on September 15, 1996 when the Saunière made contact with the bottom of the St. Lawrence River at Bay State Shoal in U.S. waters near Brockville, ON. The ship was upbound with 19,033 tons (19,339 tonnes) of iron ore from Sept-Iles, QC for Fairport, OH and approaching the Brockville Narrows section of river at the time. Upon inspection, the contact resulted in damaged bottom shell plating on the starboard side and the #1 starboard ballast tank being holed in 3 places. The Saunière was permitted to proceed to Hamilton, ON to off-load her cargo and then to Port Weller Dry Docks, St. Catherines, ON for dry-docking and repair. After completion of the repairs, the vessel returned to Hamilton to reload her cargo and complete her trip to Fairport, OH. The total cost of this incident to Algoma including off-loading, repairs and reloading was $950,000. The Saunière was on an 18 1/2-day off-charter hire to the Seaway Self-Unloaders pool at the time of the occurence.
April 6, 1999 saw the Saunière depart the Novadock, Halifax, NS after a lengthy refit during her 1998/1999 winter lay-up. Included in the refit was a complete repainting of her hull with the inclusion of Algoma's crest and 100th anniversary banner but retaining the stack markings of her operators (SOQUEM). More extensive work was completed during the vessel's 2001/2002 winter lay-up at Port Weller Dry Docks including a refit to the self-unloading boom, the addition of new hydraulic hatch covers, bottom plate replacement and a 5-year survey.
Saunière lost her starboard anchor and 8 shackles of anchor chain while approaching the Mines Seleine dock near Grande Entree, Iles-de-la Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on September 21, 2006. She departed October 2. Then on September 18, 2007, the Saunière contacted the south sea wall of the Canso Causeway (the main artery joining the Nova Scotia mainland and Cape Breton Island). A dent above the waterline in way of the # 1 portside tank resulted. A crack in the vessel's forepeak was observed at Quebec City on January 23, 2009; the ship sailing on January 26 after the necessary repairs were completed.
The Saunière remained in active service under Sonamar charter after the initial 15-year term until laying up for a final time on March 1, 2009 at Montreal, QC. After remaining laid up through 2010, final preparations were completed in early 2011 for a scrap tow to Aliaga, Turkey. In late May, the Panamanian flagged 978 gross ton, 8,202 b.h.p. (6,032 kw) ocean tug Panormitis operated by Diavlos Salvage and Towing Ltd., Piraeus, Greece arrived at Montreal to take the Saunière in tow. After leaving Montreal on June 3, 2011, the Panormitis arrived at Aliaga with the Saunière on July 2, 2011.
Written by George Wharton.