Click on image for a full screen view

On first trip to Hamilton May 22, 2002

Alex Howard 

-- John D. Leitch --
(Canadian Century 1967 - 2002)

by George Wharton

This unique traditional styled Great Lakes, self-unloading bulk carrier was built by Port Weller Dry Docks, St. Catharines, ON (hull #41). She was christened Canadian Century for Upper Lakes Group, Inc., Toronto, ON on April 15, 1967 by Mrs. G.E. Gathercole, wife of the Chairman of the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario. The Leitch is powered by a Burmeister & Wain type 574 VT2F 160 diesel engine rated at 7,394 b.h.p. at 115 r.p.m. burning intermediate grade 180 fuel driving a controllable pitch propeller giving the vessel at service speed of 14.5 knots. She is equipped with a 1,000 horsepower bow thruster. Her enormous single hold is fed by 22 hatches. She can carry 25,700 tons at maximum Seaway draft of 26 feet and is capable of carrying 31,600 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 29 feet 4 1/2 inches. Capacities include 465 tonnes of fuel oil, 75 tonnes of diesel oil, 186 tonnes of potable water, and 17,348 tonnes of water ballast.

The John D. Leitch's original self-unloading system consisted of a single center-line conveyor belt gravity system with a 300-ton reclaimer feeding a bucket/hopper elevator system leading to a forward-mounted 250 foot discharge boom. The reclaimer consisted of 2 auger screws, each 26 feet long and 7 feet high. As they would turn, the cargo would be forced forward to the bucket elevator system. It could discharge at a rate of up to 4,000 tonnes per hour. Due to the technological advances in self-unloading systems, the Canadian Century's bucket elevator system was replaced in 1975/76 with a modern loop belt elevator system. The system can now discharge at a rate of up to 4,572 tonnes per hour. The discharge boom can be swung 95 degrees to port or starboard.

In December 2001 the Leitch entered Port Weller Dry Docks for a mid life refit. The $25-million (C) refit was similar to the work that the shipyard completed on the CSL Tadoussac the winter before. The bow and stern sections remained intact, along with most of the main deck. The cargo hold and the rest of the midsection were replaced with a new, larger cargo hold, a one-belt self-unloading system with a flat tank top. When it returned to service in May of 2002 it not only carried more cargo, but could operate more efficiently through the increased use of technology.

At the time of her launch, the vessel was the largest capacity self-unloading vessel on the Great Lakes. Her unique squared hull design reduced wasted space thus increasing her tonnage. Her tall wheelhouse and forward accommodations has given her the distinction of being known as the "little bank building on floats".

The Leitch was built specifically to accommodate U.L.S.'s first contract to carry coal for Ontario Hydro. During her first season of operations, she made 63 trips delivering coal totaling 1.7 million tons. On Dec. 8, 1967; she set a Welland Canal coal record by carrying 28,283 tons from Conneaut, OH to Dofasco, Hamilton, ON. June 18, 1969 saw the Canadian Century load a Conneaut, OH record of 31,081 tons of coal for Ontario Hydro's Lambton Generating Station at Courtright, ON. In her early years, she would sail to Sept Isles, PQ to rendezvous with her former fleet mate Ontario Power to transfer coal loaded aboard the latter vessel at Sydney, NS for delivery to Nanticoke, ON. The Canadian Century carried her first load of taconite ore pellets in 1986 when she loaded 25,427 tons at Pointe Noire, PQ for Hamilton, ON. The vessel has carried cargoes of salt from ports such as Goderich, ON and Fairport, OH. She is also noted to have carried the odd cargo of grain products.

The Leitch currently sails under the management of Seaway Marine Transport, St. Catharines, ON (partnership of Algoma Central and Upper Lakes Group). With the exception of the converted steamer James Norris, the vessel is now the oldest self-unloader in the Upper Lakes fleet.

At St. Catharines, ON on Mar. 23, 2001; the vessel was honored in the traditional Top Hat ceremony recognizing the passing of the first upbound vessel through the Welland Canal for the 2001 navigation season.

On February 25, 2011, a formal statement was issued announcing the sale of the privately owned Upper Lakes Shipping fleet and their associated interest in Seaway Marine Transport to Algoma Central Corporation.  Former Upper Lakes Chairman of the Board, company spokesman and owner John D. ("Jack") Leitch stated "It is with some regret and sadness that I tell you that we have decided to sell the vessels of Upper Lakes Shipping and our interest in Seaway Marine Transport to Algoma Central Corporation. A definitive agreement has been signed and the deal is anticipated to close in about a month. By the end of this season the proud logo on the funnels of Upper Lakes vessels will no longer be seen on the Great Lakes or along the St. Lawrence River."  Jack further states "For 80 years we have been a part of the Canadian landscape and of the fabric of the Canadian economy."  The Upper Lakes Shipping fleet will takes its place in modern Canadian Great Lakes history as having been a prominent player in the economic development of the regions served by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway system.  On April 15, 2011, Algoma announced that the John D. Leitch will retain her current name.

Overall dimensions
 Length  730' 00"
 Beam  75' 00"
 Depth  45' 00"
 Capacity (mid-summer tons)  31,600
 Diesel engine horsepower  7,500

Loading in Windsor. N. Schultheiss

Former name visible.

Close up of new hull sections.

Under the boom.

Boom extended.

Lake St. Clair. Don Coles

Upbound in the Welland Canal, June 2004. Bill Bird

Detroit River, July 2003. Mike Nicholls

Stern view, July 2003. Mike Nicholls

Stern view on first trip. Alex Howard

In the Welland Canal. Dave Wobser

Underway. Ken Hamilton

Aerial view. Don Coles

Loading in Windsor. Don Coles

Upbound Detroit. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

As the Canadian Century. Roger LeLievre

On the Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Stern view unloading. Mike Nicholls

On the Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Under conversion at Port Weller. Jamie Kerwin

Close up, Jamie Kerwin

Another view. Roger Tottman

Return to Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping     Great Lakes Fleet Photo Gallery
Copyright All Rights Reserved.