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 Lake Huron

Marc Dease

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- American Courage

By Brian Ferguson

After several years constructing 1000-foot super lakers, Bay Ship Building in Sturgeon Bay, WI received contracts to build a series of vessels that departed from the Great Lakes norm of pushing the boundaries for size and power. 

When the excitement and cargo records of the  “Footers” faded, shipping agents who had just a few years prior disposed of there smaller vessels at a whole sale rate, were left with the fact that there new larger ships were not as versatile as their predecessors.  Either the customary iron ore receiving ports would have to devise a way to accommodate the mammoth new ships, or a new class of smaller ships would need to be constructed. 

One major example of this was the Port of Cleveland home to some of the most sought after contracts on the lakes.  This was the catalyst for the construction of the “River Class” vessel.  A shorter yet highly maneuverable vessel, that would have the capability to shuttle cargo unloaded from oversized ships to the customers up river and out of reach of the super ships.  The vessel would also need to have the capacity to hold its own, in the less focused on aggregate and coal trades. 

The prototype to this design hull number 00712 would be constructed in 1974, in the form of American Steamships Co.’s (ASC) Sam Laud.  Between the years of 1974 and 1981 four of the new River class of vessels would be launched at Bay Ship.  In 1978 hull number 00721 the Buffalo was christened and delivered again to ASC.  In 1979 the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton would take delivery of hull number 00722 the Fred R. White Jr.  The fourth ship, Hull number 00724 the American Republic, (which would sail in 1981 would be a highly specialized vessel) and once again be sailing under ASC colors.  American Shipbuilding would also construct three new “River Class” vessels in the 1970’s.  These would become Kinsman Marine's Paul Thayer, and William R. Roesch, and Columbia Transportation’s Wolverine.  These three ships would be slightly smaller and less powerful.

The four Bay Shipbuilding vessels shared general dimensions, yet only two were truly sisters.   The Laud, Buffalo, and White would be almost identical to the eye, with the two ASC self-unloaders 634 feet long, and the White 2 feet longer at 636 feet in length.  All vessels at there widest point would be 68’ and 40’ from keel to spar deck.  The trio of ships each is powered by two 3,600 b.h.p. single acting, two stroke cycle, V-20 cylinder GM-EMD 20-645-E7 diesel engines running to a Falk reduction gear, turning a variable pitch propeller.  The inclusion of bow and stern thrusters make all three of this class highly maneuverable and able to transit the tight confines of the Cuyahoga, Saginaw, and Manistee rivers with little difficulty. 

The White’s 20 hatches empty into five hold compartments, in which she capable of hauling 23,800 tons of stone or ore, and 18,500 tons of coal. The cargo is unloaded via 250-foot self unloading boom. At her maximum rate of 6,000 net tons per hour she can off load a full load in about four hours. 

Columbia’s new workhorse the Fred R. White Jr. (U.S. 606421) and the Wolverine would replace several smaller and older vessels.  Included in this were the Maritime Class vessels, Ashland, and Thomas Wilson, the Sylvania, and G.A. Tomlinson. 

In 1975-76 the Colombia’s river ship Wolverine was joined by the Former Kinsman vessels Paul Thayer, and William R. Roesch.  These two vessels would sail under Oglebay Norton’s Pringle Transit Co.  With addition of the White who‘s maiden voyage would take place May 26th, 1979 when she left Sturgeon Bay WI for a load iron ore pellets at Escanaba, Michigan for Cleveland, Ohio, the nucleus of four newer vessels and several viable older self-unloaders (including the Maritime class vessels Crispin Oglebay, Robert C. Norton, and the J. Burton Ayers) would give Oglebay Norton a foothold in the Great Lakes aggregates trade.  In the mid 1990’s as the Maritime boats were phased out, the Pringle vessels would join the White and Wolverine under the new Oglebay Norton Marine Transportation flag and would be renamed Earl W. Oglebay, and David Z. Norton (3).  In April 2000 Oglebay Norton acquired the former Michigan Limestone Operations stone Quarries and docks at Port Inland (Gulliver MI), Port Dolomite (Cedarville MI), and the Port of Calcite (Rogers City MI).  In January 2002 Oglebay Norton purchased the Erie Sand & Gravel Company of Erie PA, including the Self Unloading Maritime class ship Richard Reiss (which would later be dealt to Grand River Navigation).  Around this time Oglebay Norton announced pooling of cargos with American Steamship (United Shipping Alliance, LLC) in an attempt to keep both US flagged shippers competitive.  The sum of these aggressive moves was to further gain strength in the stone trade. 

In 2003 the combination of low lake levels, forging steel dumping, and the loss of major ore and stone contracts left the company stunned.  The vessels of the fleet were all effected, the Joseph H. Frantz was charter to Great Lakes Associates (Kinsman), the Buckeye and Courtney Burton would never leave lay up in Toledo, OH.  The Armco would lay up prematurely and the Wolverine would spend the first part of the season at the wall. 

February 23, 2004 Oglebay Norton Company and its wholly owned subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions under chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

On June 6, 2006 in a joint announcement made with American Steamship Co. of Williamsville, NY, Oglebay Norton Co. announced the sale of the Fred R. White Jr. and five of her fleetmates to American Steamship Co. (ASC) for $120 million.  With the sale came a new name: American Courage.  The other vessels going to ASC were the Armco, Columbia Star, Courtney Burton, Middletown and Oglebay Norton.

Overall dimensions
Length 636'00"
Beam 68'00"
Depth 40'00"
Capacity (tons) 23,800
Diesel engine horsepower (2 combined) 7,200

Cleveland. TZ

Stern view TZ

Cuyahoga River. TZ

St. Marys River. Roger LeLievre

Load at night KCBX in Chicago. Gary Clark

Unloading. Rex Cassidy

Close up. Rex Cassidy

Hosing down the hold. Rex Cassidy

Loading at Marblehead, Oh.

Stopped at Zug Island. Mike Nicholls

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Another view. TZ


Ashtabula, OH. TZ

Close up. TZ

Stern view, Cleveland.  TZ

Inbound Cleveland. TZ

Stern view Detroit Mike Nicholls

Skip Meier

Toledo. Jim Hoffman

Cuyahoga River. TZ

Passing fleet mate Reserve. in the St. Marys River. Max Hanley

Loading in Cleveland. TZ

Downbound at Grassy Island.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view at Grassy Island. Mike Nicholls

Unloading in Holland, MI. Steve Vanden Bosch.

Soo Locks, R. Burdick.

Docked in Cleveland, Josh McInerney.

Departing Cleveland, Al Hart

Assisted by the Susan Hoey. Bill Hoey

Point Edward. Mike Nicholls

Close up winter lay-up

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls


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