St Marys River now open to commercial vessels following spill

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON –Commercial traffic entering through the St. Marys River is now able to pass through the Soo Locks, but recreational traffic is advised to steer away from the north side of Sugar Island as oil from a 5,300-gallon (20,063-liter) spill Thursday is expected to accumulate in that area.

“Garden River is where a lot of oil is ending up,” said U.S. Coast Guard Command Center Chief Lt. Daniel Rynard.

“Thursday morning, we got a report from Algoma Steel on the Canadian side in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.,” said Rynard. “They had an equipment failure, which led to the discharge of oil into the St. Marys River.”

As a precaution, U.S. and Canadian coast guards worked in union to secure traffic along the St. Marys for safety purposes. The closure prohibited commercial traffic from spreading the oil around the river and into the great lakes.

“We had folk from different agencies go out and make the assessment as to whether it was safe for commercial traffic,” said Rynard. “There is still oil in the water.” Assessments were conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA helped make projections through oil modeling, letting the coast guard know where the oil was heading.

Rynard could not speak to the oil response on the Canadian side. “This is a little bit of a unique case,” said Rynard of the U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard’s cooperative response to a situation stemming from a Canadian spill.

“Our request is that recreational traffic stay clear of the north side of Sugar Island,” said Rynard. “That is where the oil is collecting. That is based on several different environmental factors.” Rynard pointed out that oil could damage kayaks, canoes, fishing vessels and related equipment.

The Sugar Island Ferry remained running throughout the incident.

Soo Today


Oil spill shuts down part of St. Marys River for most of Thursday

The U.S. Coast Guard closed a section of the St. Marys River in northern Michigan Thursday following an oil spill, it said.

The spill, reported at 8:30 a.m., originated from Algoma Steel, a Canadian company, the Coast Guard said. The river was closed at the Soo Locks to Nine Mile point on Sugar Island, just north of Lake Nicolet, a 12 mile stretch, said Coast Guard Lt. Daniel Rynard. The leak of gear oil came from a 5,300 gallon container in the Algoma Steel mill in Sault Ste. Marie, across the St. Mary’s from Soo Locks.

The container has stopped leaking oil. Rynard could not provide an estimate of how much oil leaked into the river.

“We have high confidence in saying that the amount of oil that made it to the St. Mary’s river is less than 5,300 gallons,” Rynard said. Containment measures to stop the movement of oil across the water have been put in place around the mill, he said. “We got field reports back from our people that we have on the ground and we determined that the impact to the marine traffic system was negligible,” Rynard said. “It appears that the oil should stay out of the channel.”

Since the spill originated in Canada, most containment efforts are occurring there and have been carried out by the Canadian Coast Guard.

Three commercial vessels were temporarily slowed or stopped and were allowed to resume course shortly after 3 p.m.

The Coast Guard was working with the Michigan Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Department for cleanup to determine what response is necessary in Michigan.  “We encourage the public, if they see any sheening or any oiled wildlife or anything like that to notify the coast guard in Sault Ste. Marie.”

The Detroit News


Port of Monroe goals – and grant investments – could mean 10K new Monroe County jobs

MONROE, MI – The Port of Monroe’s longstanding efforts to become the first maritime container terminal in the State of Michigan could soon bear fruit – provided Monroe County matches the City of Monroe’s recent investment in the project.

On Monday, Monroe City Council unanimously agreed to appropriate $1.7 million of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the port for the purpose of cargo inspection operations, which would include the facility and equipment. This funding allocation will help the port retrofit one of its existing buildings to be able to scan containerized cargo with both X-ray and radiation detection technology, bringing it into compliance with the federal government’s SAFE Port Act.

On Tuesday, Port Director Paul C. LaMarre III asked the County Board of Commissioners to match the city’s contribution. Combined, this funding would allow the port to leverage an additional $5 million in federal grants to retrofit their facility and purchase the necessary equipment, as well as an annual federal contribution of $500,000 for upkeep of both aspects of the project. 

Should the county agree to match the city’s contribution, LaMarre said the port “could be in the container business by mid-2023”. ”Our request is that Monroe County consider matching the city’s investment of $1.7 million into this customs facility, and literally turn a key in the ignition of this project,” he said. “We’re at 30 percent design right now for making this happen… This project, in a 30-year period, based on the number of vessel calls it would generate to the port, would have over a billion dollars in economic impact and generate over 10,000 new jobs in Monroe County. “That’s a big deal.”

The port has worked for more than seven years to be able to handle containerized cargo, but the project – coined Michigan’s Maritime Gateway – was stymied by a regulatory standoff between the port and Customs and Border Patrol that persisted for several years. Deals spearheaded by LaMarre and other port officials were scuttled as CBP barred the port from handling such cargo.

LaMarre had secured a deal with Ford Motor Co. to export Ford Mustangs to Europe via the St. Lawrence Seaway. As the pilot program launched, CBP intervened, saying it could not regularly dedicate the needed manpower from its Detroit field office for such an endeavor. The agency also told the port it needed to acquire additional security screening equipment.

Another deal with Arauco North America was halted. As the first of several ships approached the Port of Monroe, CBP officials in Detroit diverted the vessel to the Port of Cleveland, stating at the time that no port in the state would be permitted to handle the cargo. A study conducted by the University of Michigan – which has a longstanding partnership with the port – found that CBP’s policies had cost the Monroe region substantial revenue and jobs.

LaMarre said Tuesday that he is confident those deals could be revisited, should the port secure the funding to construct this secure screening facility.

“Michigan does not have single seaport that can move the most commonly moved form of freight movement in the entire world,” he said. “Containers are everywhere; You can get a container to the most remote spots on our globe, however, you can’t bring one across a port in Michigan. This has been about controlling freight flow to the coast.”

“What I always say is that investment in coastal ports, although necessary, is bolstering a system allowing for more and more imports, rather than exporting products made right here in the industrial heartland of America.”

The issue prompted a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers to take up the cause. Democrat Sen. Gary Peters and Republican Rep. Tim Walberg pushed CBP for answers and clarifications. Peters eventually became the chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, which LaMarre says helped significantly in leading to a partnership between the port and CBP. State lawmakers passed a bipartisan resolution calling for changes, highlighting the impact such policies had on the state economy. State Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, co-sponsored the resolution. Last August, LaMarre and Peters hosted a delegation of bureaucrats from the agency, touring the port and explaining its positions and desire to be able to engage in handling more cargo. The port subsequently received federal grant funding to increase its security and scanning equipment.

“Never ever in my life did I think… that U.S. Customs would go from a position of I’m Public Enemy No. 1 to we’re giving each other bro hugs at the dock at the Port of Monroe, and we’re buddies and we’re partners,” LaMarre said. “…It’s taken us a long time to get to square one. However, I’d rather get to this point and have a partner, as we have now, and build a facility that will place us in the most capable position of any secure screening facility in the country.”

LaMarre said that while the CBP is now working with the port on this issue, others at the federal level remain uncooperative.

“We thought we had funding on the way for the facility through the Port Infrastructure Development Program that the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration has,” LaMarre explained. “We found out that our project ranked highest of any on the entire Great Lakes, but it was hand-pulled by (U.S.) Secretary of Transportation, (Pete) Buttigieg, when it was out for signature to be funded, to not fund it. That happened three days before Christmas last year. Again, it’s about controlling freight flow, (but) the little engine that could is going to keep pushing ahead. That’s because of our partners.”

Multiple Monroe City Council members lauded the project Monday. “I know this has been a long-term battle,” said Councilman Andrew Felder. “…I absolutely believe that, set aside the money (the port is) going to receive from outside funding for our city’s investment in our port. We are going to pay for our portion by itself just with the economic impact the port is going to have by additional cargo screening, and the additional business it’s going to do, and the economic impact on the area, the port and the businesses there, just over time.”

LaMarre said he was on a tug boat in the middle of Lake Huron when he received a text message informing him that the city had agreed to appropriate the $1.7 million.

“It is humbling,” he said. “…I literally teared up, because this is been a call to action that we’re all going to benefit from.”

While no vote was taken by the county commissioners Tuesday, the general consensus from the members of the board was that they want to find a way to help fund the project. “We’ve been, of course, discussing with (LaMarre) and the city about how that contribution might be made,” said County Board of Commissioners Chairman, Mark Brant. “As everyone is aware, safety is (this board’s) number one priority, but probably number two is economic development. We’ve had some pretty substantial economic development successes in the not-too-distant past.

“We will look at (the port’s) proposal very seriously, and try to work something out between the county, and the city and the port, to try to leverage this thing going forward.”

Monroe News


Duluth East graduate starts new career out on the water

Wednesday, before East High School’s graduation ceremony started, one student made quite the entrance.

As most students arrived to the ceremony by car… Ethan Rentschler, his family, and mentors all arrived to the graduation ceremony by tug boat to honor his passion for the maritime industry. “Incredible, it’s just it one of a kind. I never even dreamed that this would happen”, says Ethan.

Ethan Rentschler grew up with a strong maritime background. His parents Dan, who was second mate at the time, and Sarah Rentschler met aboard the aboard the Roger Blough. And now Ethan is continuing to pursue a career out on the water. He says, “I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was in kindergarten. So I never had to doubt it.”

In high school Ethan put in hours of work alongside Edward H. Capt. Bryan Rydberg ever since he was fifteen. “I would call in a lot of times, I’d actually call in to school and go work for a day. Or I would come in school with no sleep because I was out at like five in the morning”, Ethan says.

Rentschler even obtained his U.S. Coast Guard merchant mariners credentials at just 16 years old.

“It’s great because we really need the younger generation to come up to take our places. And Ethan is enthused, willing to work, and wants to learn. He does a great job,” says Bryan Rydberg. And because of his gained experience and passion, Ethan now has a job lined up after high school graduation.

Ethan will be working aboard the S.S. Wilfred Sykes at an entry level position in the engine room. He is shipping out to Port Inland, Michigan a day after Wednesday’s graduation ceremony. And he’s excited, saying, “I love being around big machinery, the people, and just what we do. And the views too! You know it’s a beautiful port to be working in.”

Ethan’s advice to other graduates is, “Whatever position or job you get, or thing you go for, take it and run with it. Do you best and enjoy life.”



Museum vying for beloved Keewatin runs into choppy water

While a Kingston museum still hopes to land the SS Keewatin, its board of directors seems to have splintered in two.

And one former board member of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston noted, the Keewatin pursuit was one of the issues that led to the recent split that saw six board members tender their resignations.

“The reason was a difference of opinion about the future direction of the museum,” said former board member John Summers, who serves an adjunct professor of Museum Studies at Faculty at the University of Toronto as well as Hamilton’s manager of Heritage Resource Management where he directs the operation of eight civic museums.

When asked if the Keewatin played a factor in that regard, Summers replied: “Yes, but only insofar as it was part of an overall approach to the future direction of the museum.”

Read the full article at this link: 


Marine Mart in Port Huron to resume in June

 PORT HURON, MI – A long-standing tradition, sidelined by COVID, will make a return this year in a new location. The Summer Marine Mart, formerly the St. Clair Marine Mart, will be held Saturday, June 11, at the American Legion Post #8, 1026 Sixth St., in Port Huron, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The Mart features nautical items, artifacts, photos, books, artwork, models, postcards and more. See the poster in the image gallery below for more information.


Second printing of 2022 Know Your Ships now available 

For the second year in a row, Know Your Ships has had to do a second printing of the standard-bound edition. Replacing the Stewart J. Cort for the cover of the second printing is the Roger Blough. In the announcement post, author Roger LeLievre stated, “She is 50 years old this year, and since her future is uncertain, we felt she deserved the honor. Note the second printing is for the standard-bound book only… we have plenty of the spiral-bound book with the Cort on the cover and those will continue to be available.”

You can order a copy at 


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Manitoulin with a Purvis tug at then Essar Steel (now Algoma Steel). M/V Saginaw photo

Foreign vessel Marsgracht at Port of Monroe. Paul LaMarre photo

S.S. Keewatin during a dead tow. S.S. Keewatin photo

Know Your Ships announcement on the second printing

Port Huron Marine Mart poster


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