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Departing Dry Dock after rebuilding.

George Wharton

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- CSL Laurentien

By George Wharton

Built by Collingwood Shipyards, Collingwood, ON; the self-unloading bulk freighter CSL Laurentien was side launched July 8, 1977 for Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal, PQ. as the Louis R. Desmarais. She is powered by 2 Pielstick V-10 cylinder 4,500 horsepower diesel engines feeding through a single reduction gear box to a controllable pitch propeller giving her a rated service speed of 14 knots and is equipped with a bow thruster. She is also equipped with a fitness/recreation room for the benefit of her 32 crew members.

As the Louis R. Desmarais it had been an active participant in CSL's ship-to-ship coal loading program in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off Sept Isles, PQ. CSL self-unloaders (up to 5 at a time) would meet a giant ocean bulker and load her for overseas destinations. Thus the ocean bulker would not have to enter a port to load and face draft restrictions for load capacities. She has also "topped-off" these giant bulkers in the Canso Strait.

The vessel distinguished herself on June 5, 1979 when she spotted the burning Cartiercliffe Hall on Lake Superior and came to her assistance picking up survivors. She, herself, fell victim to an engine room fire on Nov. 27, 1999 on western Lake Ontario when a hydraulic oil line broke spraying oil over the engines. Though a mayday was sent, the crew was able to extinguish the fire with no reported injuries. After repairs and inspections were completed, she was allowed to continue her voyage. At the time, she was carrying a load of cement clinker from Quebec City, PQ to Detroit, MI.

Over the winter of 2000-2001 the Louis R. Desmarais entered Port Weller Dry Docks for conversion to a SeawayMax-sized vessel. The Desmarais' forward hull was cut away and a new forebody was fitted to the engine-room portion of the former Desmarais. The new vessel features state-of-the-art automated self-unloading equipment. This conversion was part of CSL’s extensive fleet renewal program and the third of three CSL vessels to have forebody replacements at Port Weller Dry Docks, as part of a $100 million, three-forebody contract with Canadian Shipbuilding & Engineering. The preceding vessels, christened in 1999 and 2000 respectively, were the CSL Niagara, and the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin.

On March 3, 2001 a christening ceremony was held at Port Weller Dry Docks for the new vessel. It was attended by more than 200 Canada Steamship Lines employees, many of whom are traveling from the company’s Montreal headquarters. CSL Chief Operating Officer Gerry Carter was the keynote speaker. Senior government representatives also attended the christening, and the festivities culminated with a dinner and dance Saturday evening at nearby White Oaks resort.

The sponsor of Hull 79 at the christening was Mrs. Kimberley Pauley, wife of Capt. Steve Pauley, of Mates Corner, NB. Mrs. Pauley swung a bottle of champagne to the hull were it cracked open on the first hit. Ship yard crews lowered the covers that were hiding the new name.

On April 7, 2001; with the assistance of the Port Weller Dry Docks tug James E. McGrath on the bow and McKeil Marine's tug Progress guiding, the CSL Laurentian departed the deep dock at Port Weller Dry Docks and was moored above Welland Canal's Lock 1 located immediately across the canal from the deep dock. After completing sea trials on Lake Ontario, she returned for repairs to her bow thruster. On Monday, April 9, 2001; the CSL Laurentian left the Welland Canal on her maiden voyage in ballast to Thunder Bay, ON to load grain for Port Cartier, PQ.

Overall dimensions
Length 739'10"
Beam 78'00"
Depth 48'05"
Capacity (tons) 37,797

Sailing with the hull painted black in 1996. Jeff Thoreson

As the Louis R. Desmarais opening the Welland Canal in 1997. Courtesy Canada Steamship Lines.

Stern view.

Dry docking in Erie, Pa. 1997. Jeff Thoreson

Inbound Erie, Pa. Jeff Thoreson

Port Colborne 2001. Bonnie Hetherington

St. Marys River, 1997

Former fore body waiting to be scrapped at Port Colborne. Mike Nicholls

View of the former fore body.

Maumee Bay, Toledo. Jim Hoffman

Detroit River stern view. Mike Nicholls

Thunder Bay. Rob Farrow

Unloading cement in the Rouge River. Don Coles

St. Lawrence River.
Marc Piché

Detroit River.  Mike Nicholls

First cargo loaded in Thunder Bay, April 14, 2001.  Rob Farrow

St. Marys River. Paul Beesley

Welland Canal. Alex Howard

Forebody replacement at Port Weller Dry Docks. March, 2001. Jason Junge

Christening. Jason Junge

New name reveled. Jason Junge

Wide view from across the canal. Jamie Kerwin.

Conversion work, January, 2001. Jeff Thoreson

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