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 Detroit River, 2001.

Mike Nicholls

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- English River

By George Wharton

Initially constructed as a Seaway shuttle package freighter; this smaller sized motor vessel was built by Collingwood Shipyards Ltd., Collingwood, ON as hull #171. With the keel being laid March 20th, 1961; the vessel was launched September 8th, 1961 as the English River for owners Canadian General Electric Co. Ltd., Montreal, QC and immediately bareboat chartered to Canada Steamship Lines, Montreal who also acted as the vessel’s managers. The package freighter was named after a small community and river in northern Ontario. The English River entered service on October 19th, 1961 and had a designed capacity of 5,200 tons (5,284 tonnes) in a port and starboard hold. The vessel is powered by a single Dutch-built Werkspoor model TMAB-390 8 cylinder 1,850 b.h.p. diesel engine burning marine diesel oil driving a single controllable pitch propeller giving the vessel a rated service speed of 13.8 m.p.h.

The English River spent her early years in the freight trading business she was designed for. Primary routes were between Lake Ontario ports and company terminals along the St. Lawrence River. Cargoes included palletized freight and the odd deck load of vehicles. Canada Steamship Lines assumed direct ownership of the motor vessel in 1963. With better highways and increased competition from the trucking industry; demand for package freighters such as the English River decreased.

Canada Steamship Lines sent the English River to the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co., Port Arthur, ON (now Thunder Bay) for conversion to a self unloading bulk cement carrier in 1973. The conversion took place over the summer. The conversion included the installation of sloping cargo hold slides with drag line scrappers to move the cement to stern mounted bucket elevators to lift the cargo to a hopper for discharging to shore by air slide equipment. With this conversion, the English River could now carry 7,450 tons (7,570 tonnes) of cement and her mid summer draft of 22’07” (6.88m). The newly converted cement carrier returned to service late in 1973 under charter to Canada Cement Lafarge. At this time, title of the vessel was passed to Laurentide Financial Corp. Ltd., Vancouver, BC with CSL acting as managers.

In 1992, Canada Cement Lafarge took ownership of the vessel. The English River’s current registry shows Lafarge Canada Inc., Montreal, QC as the official owners with Canada Steamship Lines remaining as managers. The vessel’s trade routes are predominately focused on the lower lakes; loading at Bath, ON for ports such as Toronto, Whitefish, and Hamilton, ON; Oswego and Buffalo, NY. Other ports of call could include Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; and Port Stanley, ON.

A safe vessel; the only recent recorded incident occurred in Cleveland in the spring of 1996. The English River got caught crosswise in the current of the Cuyahoga River and backed down into a cement/steel dock causing some damage to both the vessel and dock. The vessel has often been honored in spring by being the first vessel of the season into several lower lake ports and maintains a busy schedule throughout the shipping season.


Overall Dimensions (metric)
Length  404’03” (123.22m)
Beam  60’00” (18.29m)
Depth  36’06” (11.13m)
Capacity  7,450 tons (7.570 tonnes)
Power (diesel)  1,850 bh.p.

Welland Canal. Mike Olson

English River in 1975

Tug assist. TZ

Sunset off Cleveland. TZ

Cleveland. TZ

Crewman landing.

Dry dock 1998


Welland Canal. George Wharton

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Unloading in Buffalo.
Brian Wroblewski

On deck.
Brian Wroblewski

Welland Canal .Rod Burdick

Docked Todd Shorkey

Unloading Jeff Thoreson

Brian Wroblewski

Arriving Cleveland. TZ

Backing from Cleveland. TZ

Cleveland. TZ

Stern view. TZ

Unloading at Lafarge in Cleveland 2004.  Mike Nicholls

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