Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Mississagi
by George Wharton
This L6-S-B1 designated "Maritime Class" straight-deck bulk carrier was
built in 1943 for the United States Maritime Commission as the Hill
Annex by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge, MI at a cost of
approximately $2.2 million. The Hill Annex was the eighth of sixteen
"Maritimers" built for the U.S. Maritime Commission during World War
II. The L6-S-B1 designation meant that it was a Great Lakes vessel (L),
600 - 699 feet long (6), steam powered (S), particular design type (B),
and sub-design (1). The Hill Annex was initially powered by a ship-yard
built 2,500 horsepower triple expansion steam engine.
After being rechristened George A. Sloan, the vessel was delivered to
the U.S. Steel Corp. owned Pittsburgh Steamship Company on July 22,
1943. The vessel was named in honor of Mr. George Arthur Sloan who was
a director and member of the finance committee of U.S. Steel Corp. at
the time. The George A. Sloan was one of three "Maritimers" acquired by
the Pittsburgh Steamship Co. in 1943 for a modest cost plus the exchange
of obsolete vessels of equivalent tonnage. The other two vessels
acquired were the Sewell Avery (sold for use as a sunken dock 1987) and
the Robert C. Stanley (scrapped 1989). The six vessels traded in were
all nearly 50 years old. These vessels were the Zenith City, Robert
Fulton, Queen City, Rensselaer, Pentecost Mitchell, and the Herman C.
Strom. The primary function of these new vessels was to carry iron ore
from Lake Superior ports to the steel mills on the lower lakes on behalf
of the U.S. Steel Corp. Iron ore continued to be her primary cargo
through until 1966, with spot loads of coal and slag.
Even though the Coast Guard had signed off on the construction plans of
the sixteen "Maritimer Class" vessels, the George A. Sloan's deck
cracked on her first trip in moderate seas on Lake Huron in September of
1943. As a result, her hull had to be strengthened using 3 feet wide x
2 inch thick steel strapping. After a similar problem that nearly
caused the foundering of her fleet mate Robert C. Stanley in November of
the same year again in moderate seas, the Coast Guard ordered all the
"Maritimers" to have their hulls strengthened in a similar fashion.
Bradley Transportation Co., owned by the Michigan Limestone Division of
U.S. Steel Corp., acquired the George A. Sloan in 1966 from the
Pittsburgh fleet following the loss of one of its vessels, the
Cedarville, in 1965. Bradley had the Sloan converted to a self-unloader
by Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WI in 1965/66. July 1, 1967 saw the
return of the George A. Sloan to the Pittsburgh fleet as a result of
U.S. Steel Corporation's merging of the Bradley fleet into the
The Sloan was repowered in 1984/85 with a pre-production model 4,500
b.h.p. 12-cylinder Caterpillar 3612TA marine diesel engine burning
intermediate grade 320 fuel. Her oil-fired boilers were retained to
provide steam for the steering engine, winches, and ballast pumps. At
this time, she also received a variable pitch propeller and a new rudder
(new hydraulic steering gear installed on the Sloan in 1996 now allows
the vessel's rudder to turn up to 70 degrees). She is equipped with a
bow thruster. Her 16 hatches feed into 4 compartments where she is
capable of carrying 15,800 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 25
feet 5.5 inches. The self-unloading system is gravity fed through gates
to two 4-foot wide conveyor belts feeding a forward mounted loop-belt
elevator to a 262-foot bow mounted discharge boom that can be swung 100
degrees to port or starboard.
The George A. Sloan served special niche customers on behalf of the USS
Great Lakes Fleet handling cargoes such as coal, limestone, salt, stone,
sand, and other aggregates into and out of large and small ports on the
Great Lakes and the rivers feeding into them. She also carried the odd
spot load of iron ore as needed.
At the end of the 2000 shipping season, the George A. Sloan laid up in
Sarnia, ON pending a sale to the Canadian shipping company Lower Lakes
Towing Ltd., Port Dover, ON. The sale was finalized in late March,
2001. Immediately after the sale, dock crews began work on the Sloan
preparing her to sail as a Canadian registered vessel. This work
involved meeting higher standards for fire protection. The living
accommodations were gutted and floor tile removed. New tile was
installed, and new insulation and fire doors were added. The vessel was
reflagged Canadian, the hull was painted the Lower Lakes color scheme,
with the vessel being christened Mississagi on Saturday, April 21,
2001. Also christened that day, but remaining US-flagged, were her
former fleet mates Calumet, a) Myron C. Taylor; and
Maumee, a) William
G. Clyde, b) Calcite II; now both owned by Lower Lakes Towing's U.S.
affiliate Grand River Navigation and sailing under the Lower Lakes
Transportation Co., Cleveland, OH banner.
The Mississagi is named after the Mississagi
Straight in northern Lake Huron. Lafarge Cement operates a stone quarry at
Meldrum Bay where ships load.
The Mississagi departed on her maiden voyage May 3, 2001
light to Bruce Mines where she
loaded stone for Toledo, OH,
arriving there early May 6, 2001. As with her Canadian fleet mates
Cuyahoga and Saginaw, the Mississsagi's cargoes are focused in the
stone, aggregates, sand, coal, salt and grain trades primarily on the
This history is dedicated firstly to the crews that have served on the
George A. Sloan during her 57-year tenure with the various U.S. Steel
fleets. Secondly, this article is dedicated to the people at Lower
Lakes Towing who have seen the advantages and benefits of keeping this
veteran productively trading on the lakes thus preserving another
priceless piece of Great Lakes marine history.
Sarnia lay-up 2003. N. Schultheiss
Saginaw & Mississagi panoramic.
Fresh paint on the Calumet and Mississagi.
Detroit River, 2003.
Loading in Windsor.