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 St. Clair River.

John Meyland

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature - H. Lee White

By George Wharton

Built by the Bay Shipbuilding Corp., Sturgeon Bay, WI for the American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY, the H. Lee White(2) was launched December 3, 1973 and sailed on her maiden voyage June 1, 1974. This self-unloading bulk freighter is powered by twin V-20 3600 horsepower GM diesel engines. She has both bow and stern thrusters and a self-unloading system that can unload ore pellets up to6000 tons per hour. Her 6 cargo compartments are fed by 23 hatches allowing her to carry up to 35,200 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 30 feet 7 1/2 inches. She is one of only a few vessels in the Great Lakes American fleet whose size permits her to transit the Welland Canal (the new maximum Canal length being 740 feet). This advantage has been to her benefit this season.

The H. Lee White(2) was the third of ten ships constructed under the provisions of Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970 for the American Steamship Co. This Act allowed for guaranteed government financing and deferred tax benefits for U.S. shipping companies to build new vessels or modernize their fleets.

This vessel has had several accidents of note. She ran aground at Port Dolomite, MI in June 1974, collided with the Greek salty Georgios in December 1974 near St. Clair, MI, struck the Algoma Steel plant dock at Sault Ste. Marie, ON in July 1976, and struck a section of the toll bridge at Grosse Ile, MI in September of 1992.

The bridge accident knocked down a 150 foot span immediately east of the main river channel. The White was not damaged but a new section of the bridge had to be installed at a cost of $1.7 million. The bridge was back in service in late January, 1993.

In 2000 Federal Court in Detroit held that the Grosse Ile Bridge Company was the sole cause of the accident. Vindicated in this ruling was Captain John K. Gapczynski of the H. Lee White. According to his family, the on going legal action caused Capt. Gapczynski a great deal of distress and he passed away in 1998 before the case was settled. The ruling was appealed in 2002.

The H. Lee White (2) continues to be a favorite of boatwatchers and should provide her owners with many seasons of safe and productive sailings.


Overall dimensions
Length 704'00"
Beam 78'00"
Depth 45'00"
Capacity (tons) 35,200

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Marquette. Lee Rowe

Loading at night. Lee Rowe.

Close up. Lee Rowe

Detail of unloading boom. Lee Rowe

Icy bow. Lee Rowe

Erie, Pa. Jeff Thoreson

Inbound. Jeff Thoreson

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Departing Muskegon, Scott Golin

Docked and unloading. The River Collection

Soo Locks. Chris Franckowiak

Marquette. Scott Best

Cleveland. TZ

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Lorain, 2002. TZ

Marquette. Lee Rowe


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