Downbound at Lake Huron cut buoys 1 & 2, Sept. 20, 2008.

John McCreery 

John G. Munson

by George Wharton

The self-unloading bulk freighter John G. Munson (2) was built in 1952 as hull # 415 by Manitowoc Shipbuilding, Inc., Manitowoc, WI. The construction was a result of a contract awarded to Manitowoc Shipbuilding by Irvin L. Clymer, president of Bradley Transportation Line in 1950.  The new vessel was to be used in the stone trade, limestone in particular.  The new self-unloader was launched November 28, 1951 for the Bradley Transportation Line, Rogers City, MI which was part of the Michigan Lime and Chemical Co. division of U.S. Steel Corp.  The John G. Munson completed her sea trials on August 12, 1952 and departed on her maiden voyage August 21, 1952 bound for Calcite, MI and her first of many loads of limestone.  Of note, the president of Bradley's sister fleet Pittsburgh Steamship Co. also owned by U.S. Steel Corp. announced in 1950 the awarding of contracts to build 3 bulk carriers coincidentally of similar size and power to the Munson but not self-unloaders.  Unknown at the time would be the classification confusion later as the 2 fleets amalgamated.

The John G. Munson was named after Mr. John Gephart Munson. Mr. Munson was elected president of both Michigan Limestone and its Bradley Transportation Division until 1939 when he became a vice president for the parent United States Steel Corp. He retained this position until his retirement in 1951. Mr. Munson died March 28, 1952.  This was the second vessel in the Bradley Transportation Co. fleet to bear the John G. Munson name. The John G. Munson (1) was built as a self-unloader in 1917 by the American Ship Building Co., Lorain, OH as the Carl. D. Bradley for the Bradley Transportation Co. She was renamed John G. Munson (1) in 1927, holding this name until 1951 at which time she was renamed Irvin L. Clymer. This renaming freed the Munson name to be applied to the current vessel. The first Munson's dimensions were 552' (168.25m) loa x 60' (18.29m) beam x 32' 9.75m) depth, 11,920 ton (12,111 mt) capacity. She was powered by a shipyard built 2,100 i.h.p. (1,567 KW) triple expansion steam engine. The vessel was dismantled for scrap in Duluth, MN in 1994-95.

The John G. Munson's dimensions at the time of her launch were 666' 03" (203.07m) loa x 72' 00" (21.95m) beam x 36' 00" (10.97m) depth.  Six holds were serviced by 18 hatches where the vessel had a 20,900 ton (21,236 mt) capacity at a mid-summer draft of 25' 10" (7.86m). The holds had the cubic capacity to carry 18,000 net tons of coal (equivalent to 16,175 tons or 16,330 mt).  Coal-fired Foster-Wheeler water tube boilers fed a General Electric cross compound steam turbine engine rated at 7,700 s.h.p.(5,744 KW) built by General Electric Co., Lynn, MA.  The power was fed to a single fixed pitch propeller giving her a speed of 16 m.p.h. The vessel was rebuilt during the 1975-76 winter lay-up including the addition of a 102' (31.09m) mid-section, automating and converting her coal-fired boilers to burn heavy fuel oil and the installation of a bow thruster. The work was completed by Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WI. The Munson's stern thruster was installed later as it was originally the bow thruster removed from the Enders. M. Voorhees in May of 1986. Her 22 hatches service 7 holds where she is capable of carrying 25,550 tons (25,960 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 27' 04" (8.33m). The holds now have the cubic capacity to handle 21,990 net tons of coal (equivalent to 19,634 tons or 19,949 mt).  The 250' (76.20m) forward mounted self-unloading boom can be swung 110 degrees to port or starboard and can discharge at a rate of up to 5,600 net tons per hour.

The John G. Munson (2) set her first record cargo on September 9, 1952 with 20,871 tons (21,206 mt) of limestone from Calcite, MI to Buffington, IN.  This load set a Great Lakes limestone cargo record. The vessel broke her own cargo record on July 4, 1953 with 21,011 tons (21,349 mt) of limestone from Calcite, MI to Gary, IN, a limestone record that stood until 1966 when it was broken by a newer Canadian self-unloader. She continued to sail under the Bradley Fleet banner until July 1, 1967; when, for economic reason, U.S. Steel (owners of both Bradley and Pittsburgh Steamship Co. fleets) merged the Bradley Fleet into the Pittsburgh Fleet.  The other Bradley boats involved in the merger were the Calcite II, Irvin L. Clymer, T.W. Robinson, Rogers City, George A. Sloan, Myron C. Taylor and the W.F. White.  Today, the John G. Munson is the only Bradley boat remaining with the derivative of the original Bradley Fleet. Late March 2001 saw the remaining Bradley boats and former Munson fleet mates acquired by Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., Port Dover, ON (the George A. Sloan, being renamed Mississagi) and Grand River Navigation Co., Cleveland, OH (the Calcite II, renamed Maumee and the Myron C. Taylor, becoming the Calumet). Of note, the Grand River Navigation Co. is an affiliate of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd.

The John G. Munson was an active participant in the year-round navigation experiment conducted in 1974-75. In addition to carrying iron ore downbound, the Munson also carried twenty coal cargoes from Conneaut, OH to Duluth, MN. She suffered a fire in her forward end on Feb. 2, 1983 while in winter lay-up. The fire started in the ship's machine shop resulting in three people being hospitalized for smoke inhalation.  On March 21, 1984, the self unloader hit the Lorain, OH breakwall receiving some bow damage and losing her port anchor (later recovered).  More recently, a mechanical failure was reported to have caused the vessel to strike the Shell Canada fuel dock along the St. Clair River at Corunna, ON on November 7, 2006 as she was pulling into the dock to fuel.  About 200' (61m) of the structure sank into the river. Repairs to the dock were completed during the upcoming winter and into the spring of 2007.  Vessels were still able to use the middle and south berths for fueling as normal.  Damages to the self unloader were minor.

On June 5, 1981; U.S. Steel turned its fleet into an owned subsidiary renaming it USS Great Lakes Fleet and designating it as a common carrier. This designation allowed the fleet's management to seek business opportunities elsewhere while fulfilling the transportation requirements of U.S. Steel. The Munson, though, retained her Bradley grey hull color until 1990 when she was painted her current fleet color scheme. When U.S. Steel completely divested itself from any involvement in transportation, the John G. Munson and her fleet mates then sailed for the new fleet owners USS Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., Duluth, MN; a subsidiary of Great Lakes Transportation, Monroeville, PA.  By 2003, the fleet name was shortened to just Great Lakes Fleet, Inc.  Then in 2004, Great Lakes Fleet, Inc. was acquired by CN Rail (Canadian National Railway Co., Montreal, QC).  The fleet remains U.S.-flagged and based in Duluth but now sails under the management of Keystone Shipping Co., Bala-Cynwyd, PA in compliance with the Jones Act.

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not the John G. Munson falls into the "AAA" class designation with her fleet mates Arthur M. Anderson, Cason J. Callaway, and Philip R. Clarke. Though constructed at about the same time and of similar size and power, the Munson was conceived and built as a self-unloader whereas the three fleet mates were built as straight-deckers later to be converted to self-unloaders. The confusion exists on paper though, as U.S. Steel's accounting office at the time classified the Munson as an "AAA" boat because of her age, size and power similarities to the other three boats. The "AAA" designation was an internal U.S. Steel accounting code used for fleet vessel classification in determining pay for shipboard personnel. Basically the larger and more powerful the vessel, the more the officers were paid. Since the Munson, Anderson, Callaway, and Clarke all fit the similar criteria, thus the common accounting code designation.

The John G. Munson's cargoes have traditionally been focused in the limestone, sand, stone, and aggregates trade. Over the years, her cargoes have expanded into the iron ore, taconite pellets and coal trades. She remains an active vessel in the Great Lakes Fleet.

Overall Dimensions (metric)
 Length  768' 03" (234.16m)
 Beam  72' 00" (21.95m)
 Depth  36' 00" (10.97m)
 Capacity (mid-summer)  25,550 tons (25,960 mt)
at a draft of 27' 04" (8.33m)
 Power (steam turbine)  7,700 s.h.p. (5,744 KW)


Unloading stone at the Carmeuse River Rouge lime plant, Aug. 12, 2008. Chuck Wagner

Approaching Lake Huron cut buoys 1 & 2,
Sept. 15, 2008. Marc Dease

Entering the St. Clair River at Point Edward, ON with
the James Norris following, Sept. 15, 2008.
John McCreery

Waiting to load at Marquette, MI, May 26, 2008.
Rod Burdick

Being bunkered by William L. Warner while unloading at S. Chicago, June 1, 2008.
Chuck Wagner

Ready to load at Stoneport, MI, July 9, 2008.
Ben & Chanda McClain

Finished loading coal at Toledo, OH, Apr. 4, 2008.
Bob Vincent

Upbound the St. Clair River at Sarnia, ON,
Apr. 5, 2008. John McCreery

Into Lake Huron. John McCreery

Loading at Stoneport, MI, Nov. 21, 2007.
Ben & Chanda McClain

Downbound the St. Clair River at the Algonac State Park, Dec. 31, 2007. Don Detloff

Arriving at Toledo, OH, Jan. 4, 2008.
Bob Vincent

Arriving at Ontonagon, July 28, 2007.
Rod Burdick

Unloading coal at Ontonagon.
Rod Burdick

Lower Lake Huron, Aug. 14, 2007.
Marc Dease

Upbound the St. Clair River at Port Huron,
June 26, 2007. Bruce Hurd

Bow view. Bruce Hurd

Port side. Bruce Hurd

Downbound the St. Clair River, May 27, 2007.
Rob Butler

Bow profile. Rob Butler

Off of Lake Huron at Point Edward, ON, June 24, 2007.
Marc Dease

At the dock, Stoneport, MI, Apr. 19, 2007.
Ben & Chanda McClain

Loading at Stoneport. Ben & Chanda McClain

Leaving Stoneport. Ben & Chanda McClain

Upbound light ship, Detroit River,
Aug. 18, 2001. Mike Nicholls

Stern view, St. Marys River

Detroit River, Aug. 11, 2002.
Mike Nicholls

Detroit River, Oct. 14, 2001. Mike Nicholls

St. Clair River. Todd Davidson

Detroit River, Sept. 2, 2001. Mike Nicholls

Mike Nicholls

Heading for Duluth. Al Miller

Duluth. Gordon A. Williams

Rouge River  Short Cut. Mike Nicholls

Departing Duluth Fuel Dock. G. Blaszkiewicz

Stern view. Scott Best

Unloading. Scott Best

Unloading. Dick Lund

Winter Lay-up. Al Miller

Duluth. Paul Beesley

Stern view. Scott Best

Unloading. Dick Lund

Bradley fleet at winter lay up.

On the St. Clair River near Marysville, MI, 1954.
Rob Butler

With grey hull downbound at Six Mile Point, 1970. Roger LeLievre

Munson passes Middletown at the Soo Locks in 1976 wearing her Bicentennial stars and stripes. Roger LeLievre

1980's. Rudi Rabe
munson3-28-15-tssd.jpg (126147 bytes)
First downbound St. Marys River 2015. Terri Shull Snook

Inbound Duluth. G. Blaszkiewicz

Detroit River.  John Belliveau

Stern view,  Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Aerial view. Don Coles

Rock Cut. Todd L. Davidson

Bow view. Clayton Sharrad

Unloading in Buffington. Gary Clark

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Inbound Duluth. Al Miller

Port Huron. Sharrad

Profile. Roger LeLievre

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Outbound Superior, Wi. G. Blaszkiewicz 

Outbound Duluth. Gordon A. Williams

Port Huron. Clayton Sharrad

Fueling in Duluth. Al. Miller

Outbound Superior, Wi. G. Blaszkiewicz 

Departing Duluth. Al. Miller

Silhouetted by a Lake Michigan Sunset off Ludington, June 18, 2004. Alan Culley

Downbound the St. Clair River at Port Huron
May 15, 2007. Bill Bird

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

Copyright All Rights Reserved.
1108 GW