Click on image for a full screen view

Port Colborne, ON, Mar. 30, 2008, .

John McCreery 

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Edward L. Ryerson

By George Wharton

The Edward L. Ryerson, is one of only two remaining straight-deck bulk carriers still part of the American fleet on the Great Lakes; the other being the John Sherwin (2). Built as hull # 425 by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Inc. of Manitowoc, WI; the keel for this bulk carrier was laid April 20, 1959.  At a snow covered shipyard on January 21, 1960; sponsored by Mrs. Edward L. Ryerson, the new vessel was launched and christened Edward L. Ryerson for owners, the Inland Steel Co. of Chicago, IL.  The new steamer was the first of five American-flagged ships to be added to the "730-class" of lake boats in the early 1960's; the other four all being former Maritime Commission T2-type tankers converted for Great Lakes service (these being the Leon Falk Jr., Paul H. Carnahan, Pioneer Challenger, and the Walter A. Sterling).  The Edward L. Ryerson became the third of thirteen 730' (222.5m) carriers to eventually share in the "Queen of the Lakes" title for being the longest ships on the Great Lakes.  She was also the second American-flagged vessel to share this honor; the first being the Arthur B. Homer launched November 7, 1959.  The "Queen of the Lakes" title was thusly shared until December 7, 1962 when the title was passed to the slightly larger Frankcliffe Hall.

The lake boat's namesake, Mr. Edward Larned Ryerson, was born in Chicago on December 3rd, 1886.  He had been president of the steel service center Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc. until 1935 when it was merged with Inland Steel.  Mr. Ryerson was chairman of the board from 1940 until his retirement in 1953 of both Inland Steel and his original company.  Mr. Ryerson died in Chicago on August 2nd, 1971.

By all accounts, the Edward L. Ryerson would have to classified as the most aesthetically pleasing of all lake boats.  From her gracefully flared bow and top of her pilot house to her large but streamlined stack to her rounded and tapered stern and her striking paint job, no expense or effort was spared during her construction to achieve this goal.  Over $8 million was reported to have been spent on the accommodations alone.  The Ryerson was considered a slightly larger version (basic design and construction) of her 1949-built fleet mate Wilfred Sykes.  Regardless of the Ryerson's appearance however, the bulk carrier was built with one cargo in mind; that being iron ore.  Her basically square boxed holds do not favor the carrying of such other bulk cargoes as coal, slag, or limestone due to the difficulty in unloading these cargoes.  Any thoughts of conversion to a self-unloader would be even more difficult and expensive as her holds would have to be reconfigured with sloped sides to allow for the free movement of the cargo to the self-unloading conveyor(s).

A sequence of "lasts" are a part of this beautiful straight-decker's history.  The Ryerson was the last American-flagged new ship built on the Great Lakes until the launch of the Stewart J. Cort in 1972.  She was the last U.S. laker to be built as a steamer, the last to be built without a self-unloader, the last lake boat to be constructed at the Manitowoc, WI shipyards, and the last and only to be built with such aesthetically pleasing lines.

The Edward L. Ryerson is powered by a General Electric 9,900 maximum s.h.p. (7,385.4 kW) cross-compound steam turbine engine (consisting of a high and low pressure turbine) built by General Electric Co., Schenectady, NY with two heavy fuel-oil fired Combustion Engineering water tube boilers.  The Ryerson is capable of speeds up to 19 m.p.h. earning her the nickname "Fast Eddie" as one of the fastest ships on the Great Lakes.  Eighteen hatches service 4 holds where the bulk carrier is capable of carrying up to 27,500 tons (27,942 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 28'04 1/2" (8.65m).  Dimensionally, the Ryerson could transit the Welland Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway where she could carry approximately 24,869 tons (25,269 mt) at the new Seaway draft of 26'06" (8.08m) implemented in 2004.  Other cubic hold capacities include 18,100 net tons of coal (the standard measurement of coal, equivalent to 16,100 tons / 16,161 mt); 15,550 tons (15,800 mt) of wheat; 14,979 tons (15,220 mt) of corn or rye; 13,139 tons (13,350 mt) of barley or 12,066 tons (12,260 mt) of oats.  The vessel displaces 9,050 tons (9,195 mt) lightweight.  A 1,200 h.p. (895 kW) diesel bow thruster was added in 1969.

After completing her sea trials on August 3rd, 1960, the Ryerson sailed in ballast to Escanaba, MI where 23,213 tons (23,586 mt) of iron ore were loaded on board on August 4th for her maiden voyage to Indiana Harbor, IN.   On August 28, 1962; the Ryerson set a new iron ore cargo record when 25,018 tons (25,420 mt) were loaded on board at Superior, WI bound for Indiana Harbor, IN.  This record was broken in 1965. 

The Edward L. Ryerson has had no recordable incidents of any serious nature throughout her tenure on the Great Lakes.  The Ryerson did, however, have difficulty before entering service when it was determined after her launch that the new bulk carrier was, in fact landlocked in the Manitowoc River.  Fifty feet (15.24m) of Manitowoc's east dock had to excavated to allow the Ryerson to make the turn and pass through the railway bridge.  A downturn in industry forced the lay-up of the Ryerson at Indiana Harbor through the 1986 and 1987 seasons.  At that time,  when the bulker returned to service in 1988, she was the only remaining American-flagged straight-decker employed exclusively in the iron ore trade.  The Ryerson laid up again on January 24, 1994 in Sturgeon Bay, WI.  She remained inactive through the 1994, 1995, and 1996 seasons as Inland Steel had chartered the surplus self-unloader Adam E. Cornelius from American Steamship Co. to carry the Ryerson's cargoes.  During this time, the Edward L. Ryerson received a five-year survey (1996) and, with increased tonnage, returned to service on April 5, 1997.

On December 12, 1998; the Ryerson again was placed into long-term lay-up at Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Also in 1998, her official name was changed to Str. Edward L. Ryerson. Following the purchase of Inland Steel by the Netherlands based Ispat International N.V. in 1998; the three vessels of the Inland Steel fleet were sold to a newly established U.S. firm Indiana Harbor Steamship Co. to comply with the Jones Act. A second new company, Central Marine Logistics of Highland, IN was created to manage the fleet. The other two fleet mates sold to the new company were the Joseph L. Block and the Wilfred Sykes. Following the sale, the “Inland Steel” name was removed from the sides of the hulls. Since then, the Ryerson was moved to Sturgeon Bay's east dock on December 7, 2000 and then back to Bay Shipbuilding on August 17, 2004.  Her only other "activity" has been to open for public tours (see photos below). 

The early summer of 2006 brought a change in the fortunes of the Edward L. Ryerson.  With an abundance of cargoes came the need for more reliable hulls to carry them.  Having been maintained in an excellent state of readiness, on June 3, 2006, the classic laker was brought out of lay-up and drydocked at Bay Shipbuilding for an assessment followed by a 5-year survey and fit out.  She departed Sturgeon Bay via Sherwood Point on July 22, 2006 under the command of Capt. Eric Treece.  Flying her christening pennant, she was bound for Escanaba, MI where 25,632 tons (26,043.75 mt) of "Royal" iron ore pellets were loaded on board for Indiana Harbor, IN.  Trade routes including Escanaba, MI and Superior, WI to Indiana Harbor, IN and Superior, WI to Lorain, OH have kept the Edward L. Ryerson engaged since her return to service.  Carrying the last load of her season, a load of iron ore pellets from Superior to Lorain, the Edward L. Ryerson had the distinction of being the last vessel to transit the Soo Locks for the 2006 navigation season.   The steamer passed downbound through the Poe Lock at about 1:20AM on January 16, 2007.  Her season ended when the classic laker returned to Sturgeon Bay on January 20, 2007 for winter lay-up, again flying her christening flag.

April 6, 2007 marked the beginning of a full season of sailing for the Edward L. Ryerson.  Trade routes from 2006 were enhanced with new destinations and some firsts.  On May 24, 2007, she passed downbound through the Welland Canal bound for Quebec City, QC making her first ever transit of the Canal and a couple of days later transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway for the first time.  The trip was the first of several made during 2007 to Quebec City.  The Edward L. Ryerson achieved an obscure first for any US flag Great Lakes vessel.  On one of her return trips from Quebec City, she picked up a return load at Valleyfield, QC bound for a lower Lake Michigan port.  During the downbound trip from Superior, WI and the upbound trip from Valleyfield, QC, the vessel transited every major body of water in the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway system, from Lake Superior through to the St. Lawrence River and back via Lake Michigan to Lake Superior.  Her season ended January 7, 2008 when she laid up at Superior's Fraser Shipyard.

During the winter, the Edward L. Ryerson received a new coat of paint and, to match the new name of the company that charters the vessel, had the new stack markings of Arcelor Mittal applied.  With Arcelor Mittal now the owners of Dofasco in Hamilton, ON, the Ryerson began the 2008 season on the new regular iron ore trade route from Superior, WI to Hamilton, ON.  With the Arcelor Mittal (Dofasco) docks in Hamilton having regularly received iron ore shipments from Gulf of St. Lawrence ports in the holds of Canadian straight deck bulk carriers for many years, the docks there are well equipped to handle and experienced at unloading ore cargos from vessels not equipped with self-unloading equipment.  The new trade route is a "perfect fit" for the Edward L. Ryerson.


Overall Dimensions & Statistics (metric)
Supporting data provided courtesy of & with thanks to Capt. Eric Treece
Length  730' 00" (222.50m)
Beam  75' 00" (22.86m)
Depth  39' 00" (9.14m)
Capacity (mid-summer)          27,500 tons (27,942 mt)
 at draft of 28' 04 1/2" (8.65m)
Displacement (lightweight)  9,050 tons (9,195 mt)
Power (steam turbine)  9,900 maximum s.h.p. (7,385.4 kW)
# 6 Fuel Oil Capacity  139,128 gal. (526,655 l) - 69,564 gal. (263,328 l) port side
                                                - 69,564 gal. (263,328 l) starboard side
Bow Thruster Fuel (# 2 diesel)  1,500 gal. (5,678 l)
Aft Diesel Storage  2,394 gal. (9,062 l)
Aft Diesel Daytank  317 gal. (1,200 l)
Potable Water, Forward  20,900 gal. (79,115 l) - 10,450 gal. (39,557.5 l) port side
                                           - 10,450 gal. (39,557.5 l) starboard side
Potable Water, Aft  20,448 gal. (77,404 l) - 10,224 gal. (38,702 l) port side
                                           - 10,224 gal. (38,702 l) starboard side
Reserve Feed Tanks  11,227 gal. (42,499 l) - 5,609 gal. (21,233 l) port side
                                           - 5,618 gal. (21,266 l) starboard side
Cooling Water  432 tons (439 mt)
Aft Peak  152 tons (154 mt)
Incinerator Tank  259 gal. (980 l)
Sewage  37,886 gal. (143,414 l)


Click on image for a selection of photos from the most recent sailing seasons

2006 Season

2007 Season
(under construction)

2008 Season

The Summer of 2002 the Ryerson was opened for tours
Pictures by Roger LeLievre

EDWARD L. RYERSON - Spring 1997 (Indefinite lay-up)
Loading at Marquette, spring 1997. Rod Burdick

St. Marys River, 1997. Roger LeLievre

Indiana Harbor, June 1998. Gary Clarke

Conversion to a self unloader was explored in the late 90's


Luncheon Launch Program & Booklet.
courtesy of Marc Vander Meulen

Newspaper clipping of launch.
Roger LeLievre collection

Newspaper clipping of the landlocked Ryerson.
George Thompson

Newspaper clipping of completion of maiden voyage.
Roger LeLievre collection

Little Rapid Cut below the Soo on June 29, 1985. Peter B. Worden Sr.
 (1989 Calendar MHSD)

In heavy spring ice above the Soo, 1988.
Rod Burdick

Docked at Escanaba, 1989.
Rod Burdick

At the Soo Locks, 1997. Roger LeLievre

Unloading in Indiana Harbor, 1997. Gary Clark

Underway. Wendell Wilke

Sunrise on Lake Superior 1997 Andy LaBorde

Moonrise. Todd Davidson

Lay-up 2000. Roger LeLievre 

Deck view. Todd Davidson

Soo Locks, 1997. Roger LeLievre

Underway, D. Holvenstot

Blows a salute in the icy Rock Cut.
John Belliveau

Sturgeon Bay. Roger LeLievre

Bow view, July 21, 2002. Roger LeLievre

Passing G tug dock at the Soo. Roger LeLievre

Passing Detour, 1979 B. Gilreath

At Bayship, 2004.  Jason Leino

At. Bayship bow view, 2004. Jason Leino.

At Bayship port side, 2004.  Jason Leino.

St. Marys River, July 4, 1980.
Dick Wicklund

Stern view. Dick Wicklund

With the Golden Hind at the Soo harbor
in the mid 1980's. Roger LeLievre

Return to Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping     Great Lakes Fleet Photo Gallery

Copyright © All Rights Reserved.
0508 GW